(last edited 5/10/16)
ENDTIMES STUDY--Key Passages
God has given us much information about the endtimes. He has told us in advance what will happen, so that when it happens just as He said, there can be no doubt that He and He alone is God. No other person or book can make such a claim. Isa. 45:21, "Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me." Fulfilled prophecy is the mark of God; it is proof that the Bible is true. About one-fourth to one-third of the Bible is prophecy; because many prophecies have already been fulfilled in detail, we can be confident that future events will happen just as God has laid out for us.
The Bible clearly teaches the endtimes view called "pre-tribulation, pre-millenial" (often shortened to "pre-trib/pre-mil"). We will go through the major sections of the Bible dealing with the endtimes and show that the rapture is clearly taught, followed by the seven years of tribulation, which is then followed by the return of Christ to rule and reign on earth over a literal, physical 1000-year kingdom. Much of this material can be found in my notes on other books of the Bible. I will attempt to consolidate it here in some sort of logical order. We will begin with what the Bible has to say to the church; when the Bible uses the word church. (Be sure in all references to notice whether the Bible is speaking to or of Israel or the church; God has a unique plan and timetable for each.)
Let's start with an overview, using the timeline below, which is followed by an expanded version of the timeline. Then as we go through the various sections of the Bible, our overview will be filled in with details.
<-- Abraham: Jewish nation established
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________God is dealing with Israel (Law)
<-- Captivity & dispersal of Israel
<--Period between Old & New Testaments (400 years)
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________God sets Israel aside temporarily
and is now dealing with a different group--the church (Grace)
(made up of both Jews & Gentiles)
<--Church Age (unknown duration--2000+ years)
<--Church caught up (the rapture)
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________God picks up His plan with Israel
and fulfills all the Old Testament promises He made to them
<-- The Tribulation: 7 years
<-- Second coming of Christ
<-- Millenium: 1000-year earthly reign
<-- Final judgment
<-- New heaven and earth
-- Creation, Gen. 1-2; the Fall, Gen. 3
-- Flood, Gen. 6-9; tower of Babel, division of nations, Gen. 11
-- Abraham: Jewish nation established, Gen. 12 to end
God is dealing with Israel: the Law
-- Captivity & dispersal, II Kings 17, II Chronicles 36; Israel's divided kingdom: Israel/north and Judah/south
-- Period between Old & New Testaments: 400 years
-- JESUS born, 33 years; the last three years, He reveals Himself as Israel's Messiah, Israel rejects Him; CROSS/RESURRECTION
God sets Israel aside temporarily and is now dealing with a different group--the church, made up of both Jewish & Gentile believers. (Grace)
-- Church Age - unknown duration (2000+ years)
-- Church caught up (the rapture), I Thes. 4:14-18, II Thes. 2:1, I Cor. 15:51-52
The judgment seat of Christ, believers rewarded, I Cor. 3:12-15, II Cor. 5:10
God picks up His plan with Israel and fulfills all the Old Testament promises He made to them.
The Beast/Antichrist/Man of Sin will be revealed, II Thes. 2:8
The 7 years of tribulation begins when he signs a 7-year covenant/treaty with Israel, Dan. 9:27
-- The 7 years of tribulation, Matt. 24:1-28, Rev. 6-18; God pours out His wrath on sinful men and purifies Israel (His wrath is not for the church, I Thes. 5:1-10)
The Beast will rule the world temporarily, Dan. 2:40, 7:7, 8:23-26, 11:36
He breaks the covenant with Israel after 3 1/2 years, Dan. 9:27, Mat. 24:15-28
The last 3 1/2 years is great tribulation, Mat. 24:21
The Beast and his false prophet require all to worship him and take his mark, Rev. 13-14
At the end of the 7 years, the armies of the world gather against Israel, Zech. 12:2-3, 14:1-2, Rev. 19:19
-- The Second Coming of Christ: Christ returns, destroys the armies of the world and the Beast & false prophet, Mat. 24:29-30, Zech. 12:7-9, 14:3-15, Rev. 19:11-21
The unsaved who are still alive will be removed from the earth before the Kingdom begins, Mat. 13:36-43, 47-50
Satan is bound for 1000 years, Rev. 20:1-3
-- The Millenium: the 1000-yr earthly physical reign of Christ over His kingdom, from Jerusalem, Rev. 20:4-6, numerous Old Testament prophecies
The Old Testament saints are resurrected to inherit the kingdom promised to them in the Old Testament, Dan. 12:13, Job 19:25-26, Ez. 37:12, Mat. 8:11
The church rules and reigns with Christ during the Kingdom, Mat. 25:14-30, Luke 12:42-44, 16:10-11, II Tim. 2:12, Rev. 2:26-27, 5:9-10, 20:6
At the end of the 1000 years, Satan is released, instigates the final rebellion of man, Rev. 20:7-10
-- The final judgment at the Great White Throne; all the unsaved (now in hell) will be thrown into the lake of fire, Rev. 20:11-15
-- There is a new heaven and new earth, Rev. 21:1. The church resides in the New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:2, 9-10. The curse of sin is lifted forever, Rev. 22:3.
We will start with the key passages from the Epistles that teach about the rapture and the fact that it will take place before the tribulation.
I AND II THESSALONIANS
I Thes. 4:13-18
Key verse: 17. Christians who are alive at the coming of the Lord in the clouds (not on the earth-the second coming encompasses two separate events) will be instantly changed (compare I Cor. 15:50-54) and caught up to meet the Lord in the air. The term "caught up" is sometimes referred to as the "rapture" because the Greek word "harpazo" means to snatch, seize, pluck, pull or take by force (related to our word "rape" or as in being carried away emotionally, "rapture"). It is the same word used of Philip who was snatched away. The same thing happened to Elijah in II Kings 2:12 who was caught up alive to heaven without dying a physical death.
4:14-16 Those believers (those "in Christ"-the church) who have already died and whose spirits are now in heaven, will accompany Christ at this event and will receive their eternal bodies at this time.
4:17 Then living believers will be changed and caught up.
Paul expects this could happen at any time. Compare this event to Christ's physical return to the earth: Rev. 19:11, Mat. 24:30-31, II Thes. 1:7-8, Zech. 14:1-5. This happens at the end of the seven years of tribulation when Christ physically returns to earth in judgment. Paul does not warn the church to be prepared for the awful events of the tribulation, as Israel is warned in the Old Testament and in Mat. 24. Instead, believers are told to be cheerfully looking forward to the day Christ calls us to meet Him in the air and to be comforted by this thought. If persecution and martyrdom awaited us, we would not be comforted.
I Thes. 5:1-11,23
Notice the chronological order of events in chapters 4-5. Also notice when Paul speaks of you/we (believers-remember he is addressing the church at Thessalonica) and they/them (unbelievers).
1-2, Paul had already taught them about these things during the three weeks he was with them (Acts 17). Is a thief wanted and expected? The church wants and expects Christ to come; in fact, in the previous verses we just saw the church caught up, so they are not on the earth. He comes as a thief not to the church but to who? 3, destruction will come upon "them" (unbelievers). Perhaps destruction falls the moment the Antichrist signs the treaty (Dan. 9:27) that marks the beginning of the seven years of tribulation; perhaps that is the moment "they" victoriously claim that now there will be peace and safety for those affected by the covenant.
4-5, "But" contrasts believers (brethren), who will NOT be overtaken by the events of the day of the Lord, because they will already have been caught up. 6, knowing these things should affect the way we live. 9, "for" explains why: believers ("us") have NOT been destined for wrath. "Wrath" does not refer to hell but to the day of wrath; Rev. 6:16- 17 and numerous Old Testament references to God's wrath make it clear this is the tribulation. The church is the body of Christ, I Cor. 12:27, Eph. 4:12. The body of Christ cannot receive the outpouring of God's wrath; Christ has already experienced God's judgment on sin once for all time, which Hebrews makes very clear in 9:12,26,28, 10:10,12,14,18.
23, Paul desires that they may all meet Christ at the rapture, not at death. At the rapture, spirit, soul and body are preserved complete; at death, the spirit and soul go to heaven, separate from the body which goes into the ground.
II Thes. 2:1-12
1-2, someone had tried to deceive the Thessalonian church into thinking that they had missed the coming of the Lord and the gathering to Him, and that now the persecution they were experiencing was the beginning of the seven years of tribulation. We know from reading through the Old Testament that the term "the day of the Lord" refers to the endtimes, and encompasses both the tribulation and the millenial kingdom. It does not appear to include the rapture, which was not revealed in the Old Testament.
3-4, Paul assures them that "that day" (KJV), which again we know from the Old Testament is often used interchangeably with "the day of the Lord," won't come until two things happen: 1) the apostasy, and 2) the revealing of the man of lawlessness-the man we often call the Antichrist (a term used only in I and II John). 5, Paul reminds them that he had taught them about these things when he was with them.
What is the apostasy? Many teach that this is a departure or defection from the faith, but that type of apostasy has been around since the beginning of the church. It would seem that it is not an "event" that happens but a process that takes place over time. How can it be the thing that precedes the revealing of the man of sin? Perhaps at that time there is a falling away of the church that will dwarf all its apostasy of the past and be an obvious phenomena.
Another view is that "apostasy" (from the Greek word "apostasia") can also be translated as "departure." It was translated as such in the six or seven English versions of the Bible before the King James Version. The departure (the catching up of the church) happens first, then the Antichrist is revealed. This interpretation fits perfectly with the picture Paul has painted in both I and II Thessalonians. It is also possible that both views of "apostasy" come into play, and that following the rapture, the "church" that is left--a false church, since all true believers are gone--rejects the truth completely.
5, many think endtimes teaching is only for mature believers, and shouldn't be taught or emphasized. But we see that Paul had taught this in the three weeks he had been with them.
6, who is "him"? The person described in 3-4. Something is restraining him--keeping him from being revealed yet. 7, some person ("he") is the restrainer. The only person powerful enough to restrain evil is the Holy Spirit, who indwells believers--the church, the body of Christ, those "in Christ." Apparently as He indwells believers, the church has a restraining influence on evil in the world. At some point, He will be taken out of the way. When the church departs or is caught up, the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit will be removed from the earth. After that, the Holy Spirit will obviously still be active on earth, as He was in the Old Testament, because God is omnipresent. But He will no longer indwell those who become believers (during the tribulation) because the church age has ended and now God is dealing with believers in a different way. Paul often speaks of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers with power; that power will be "taken out of the way."
8, "then," after the restrainer is taken out of the way--after the departure-the lawless one will be revealed. He may be around while the church is still on the earth, but his identity will not be revealed until the church departs. The Bible doesn't say how soon after the church is caught up that he will be revealed. The seven years of tribulation aren't counted from the day the church is caught up; they are counted from the day the lawless one signs the seven-year covenant with Israel, Dan. 9:27.
9-10, this lawless one will be satanically-empowered and will be characterized by deception (compare Dan. 8:23-25, Dan. 11 and Mat. 24). During his short reign, some will be saved (those who received the love of the truth) and some will not be saved (those who did not receive the love of the truth).
11-12, those who are not saved will believe "what is false," also rendered "a lie" or "the lie." What lie? Possibly the true identity of the man of lawlessness; possibly his explanation of what happened to all those who disappeared. God does not keep any from believing who wish to believe; it is God's will that ALL come to a knowledge of the truth, II Tim. 2:4. He WILL give each an opportunity to act on what is already in their hearts, and will even "help" them to do so, Mat. 25:29. Pharaoh hardened his heart and THEN God hardened it even more, Ex. 7:13,22, 8:15,32, 9:7,12,34-35, 10:1,20, 14:17. Those who have already chosen deception will receive and believe more deception-a deluding influence, and judgment to follow.
God's wrath will be poured out on two groups of mankind at that time-disbelieving Israel, and "those who dwell on the earth." Many Old Testament passages echo these themes. Many during that period will believe, and will experience the horrors of that time, as well as persecution for their faith and, for many, death. Israel will be refined, purged and purified; many will recognize and accept their true Messiah when He returns physically to the earth (Dan. 11:35, 13:9, Zech. 12:10-14).
REVELATION (brief look)
We will just look briefly at a few passages in Revelation, but will look in more detail later. This book appears to be in chronological order; we just want to note a few elements of the time line it lays out.
Rev. 2-3 are letters to seven churches-seven actual churches in John's day, but churches that also seem to symbolize seven types of churches, and some think, eras in the history of the church. While the letters to the seven churches were written to literal churches of John's day, they also have a dual, future fulfillment, like many Bible prophecies. The final two churches are Philadelphia and Laodicea. 3:10, Philadelphia is the church that will not go through the "hour of testing," the day of wrath, which is to come upon "those who dwell on the earth"-a phrase used multiple times in Revelation to refer to the godless world system. Believers, on the other hand, have their citizenship in heaven, Phil. 3:20. Also note the "open door" in 8, the promise to them in 11 that Christ is "coming quickly," and the mention in 12 of the "new Jerusalem," the heavenly city described in Rev. 21 where the church will primarily reside.
If indeed the Philadelphian church is the one that will be caught up before the tribulation, then the Laodicean church is the one that is left to go through the tribulation-the false, institutional, liberal, apostate church. People will trust in their religion but are not truly saved because they did not trust in Christ. Notice what Jesus says about them in 15-16; He would never say this of true believers. 17-18, they think they are fine, but Jesus says in 20 that He stands OUTSIDE their door. Revelation speaks of the false prophet of the Antichrist, and the false worship that will be going on then. We read in Rev. 17 of God's judgment on false religion.
Rev. 4:1 refers to "a door standing open in heaven"-compare to the open door in 3:8. A voice says "come up here." Apparently the church represented by Philadelphia is caught up into heaven. Now John will be told the things that will happen "after these things." Revelation seems to be following a chronological time-frame.
In 4:4 we find 24 elders; these cannot be angels, because they have crowns (the four living creatures of 6-9 are angels-compare to Ezek. 1:5). Crowns are promised to the church, not to angels. In 4:10 they cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus in worship. These elders seem to represent the church.
In Rev. 5 the Lamb (Jesus) prepares to unseal the book. In Rev. 6, six of the seven seals are broken, each releasing a catastrophe on the earth, giving us a broad overview of the disasters that will engulf the earth during this time of judgment. 6:16-17 establishes that this time period is indeed the day of wrath. Revelation contains many chronological overviews of the period, this being the first, and 6:17 shows that "those who dwell on the earth" realize, at least by the end, what is taking place, but they are unrepentant.
Rev. 7-18 describe the events of the seven years of tribulation. 17 tells of God's judgment on religious Babylon and 18 is the judgment on economic/commercial Babylon, at the end of the seven years. We will jump to Rev. 19 as we summarize the endtimes timeline. Following those great judgments is the second coming of Christ to the earth. Other than the elders in heaven, the church is never mentioned in Rev. 6-18. We read of saints, brethren, and a few other terms, but these are people who believed AFTER the end of the church age. Many will be saved during this time, Rev. 7:9,13-17, but they are not part of the church. The church age ended when the church was caught up.
Finally in 19:7-9 we read of the bride of the Lamb who is with Him in heaven, and of the marriage supper; Eph. 5:23,32 establishes that this is a reference to the church. 19:11-16 describes the physical, visible return of Christ to the earth. This picture is completely different from the picture in I Thes. 4 when the church is caught up to meet Him in the air. 19:17-21 describes how Christ defeats the armies of the earth and the Antichrist and false prophet with the sword of His mouth (God's Word-Heb. 4:12, Eph. 6:17). Compare Zech. 12 and 14:1-5, 12-15, Ps. 76. This is the battle of Armageddon, compare Rev. 16:12-20.
Rev. 20 continues the chronological timeline. The beast (Antichrist) and false prophet have been thrown into the lake of fire; now Satan--the dragon, the serpent--is bound for 1,000 years in the abyss. 20:1-6 mention the thousand years several times, during which Christ reigns on earth (4 and 6). This 1,000-year reign is often referred to as the millenial kingdom or simply the Millenium, even though the term "millenium" is not found in the Bible. It is a convenient way to refer to 1,000 years.
This is the kingdom age foretold in numerous places in the Old Testament. The Old Testament prophets did not speak of the duration, but described the kingdom in detail. The church reigns with Christ in the kingdom, with thrones for those who were martyred for their faithfulness to Christ, 20:4. Compare Mat. 24:45-47, 25:14-23, Luke 12:42-44, 16:10-11, 19:11-19, I Cor. 6:2-3, II Tim. 2:12, Rev. 5:10.
The church has been changed (I Cor. 15:50-54) into their eternal state and are helping Christ administer His earthly kingdom. Meanwhile, those believers who were alive at the end of the tribulation, who were saved during the seven years following the removal of all believers at the rapture, enter the kingdom age in their mortal bodies, continuing to reproduce and repopulate the earth. Unbelievers left alive at the end of the tribulation were removed for judgment-kind of the opposite of the rapture. See Mt. 13:36-43, 47-50. So the first generation of humans were all believers, in the same way people believed in the Old Testament-not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, as the church was. But, as in every age, not all their offspring will believe, and as the 1,000 years go on, there will be more and more unbelievers on earth, although all will give outward obedience to Christ.
Following the Millenium, Satan is loosed and leads the unbelievers in one final rebellion, 7-10, the battle of Gog and Magog (compare Ez. 38-39). Many teach that the battle described in Ezekiel takes place earlier in the tribulation period, or even before it, which it may, but it is only specifically said to take place in Rev. 20:8-10, at the end of the millenial kingdom. The wicked are destroyed and Satan is thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet already are.
The next event is the great white throne judgment, for unbelievers of all time. Believers are not judged because when they believed, they passed from death to life. Unbelievers, however, chose not to accept God's gift of salvation but chose instead to trust in their own good works. Now they are judged "according to their deeds," as they wished, 12-13. All of them will be found wanting and will be thrown into the lake of fire, 15. We can not be saved by trying to be good enough; God is holy and requires perfection, which can only be found in Christ and His shed blood. This is the end of life in the mortal body; now all are in their eternal state.
We will look at more about Revelation later; we have simply outlined the major events and time frame impacting the church. Details will be filled in as we look at other passages.
Next we will look at directions and information for the church. In all the examples below where the church is looking for the appearing of the Lord, it can't refer to the physical, visible second coming to the earth, because that event will be preceded by known signs (Mat. 24) and a known timetable (Mat. 24, Daniel, Revelation). We are reminded to constantly to be looking to meet Him in the air BEFORE the tribulation because that event is NOT preceded by any signs-it could happen at any moment.
Rom. 14:10-12 This judgment is not the great white throne judgment in Rev. 20 which is for unbelievers. This is the judgment seat of Christ spoken of in I Cor. 3:10-15, 4:5 and 5:10, where believers in heaven will have their works examined and rewarded or not rewarded. These rewards may be the crowns spoken of in various places (which will be offered back to Christ in worship, Rev. 4:10, or may be positions of responsibility in the kingdom, also spoken of in various places (Mat. 24:45-47, 25:14-23, Luke 12:42-44, 16:10-11, 19:11-19).
I Cor. 1:7, 3:13-15, 4:5, 6:2-3, 7:29-31, 13:10-12, 15:22-26 (here we also find the same timetable of events as we have seen above), 42-44,49-58, 16:22 ("Maranatha" means "our Lord come").
II Cor. 4:17, our deeds and choices in this life will have eternal consequences; 5:1-4, our longing to be caught up with Him and to be changed; 5:8, longing to be changed and be with Him; 5:10, to the church-in heaven we will account for our deeds and choices, and receive or not receive rewards.
Gal. 1:4 The church is looking to be rescued from this present evil age.
Eph. 5:6 God's wrath is not for the church but for the "sons of disobedience," compare in Revelation "those who dwell on the earth"; 6:8, again, the judgment seat of Christ.
Phil. 3:20-21 We are citizens of heaven; we are not of "those who dwell on the earth." We "eagerly" wait for Jesus; we are not warned to prepare for the persecutions of the tribulation. When we are caught up to meet Him, our bodies will be instantly transformed.
Col. 3:6, God's wrath is not for the church but for the "sons of disobedience"; 3:23-25, the church will give account for her works and be rewarded accordingly.
I Thes. 1:10 (the church is waiting for Christ, not for the tribulation; the church is looking to be rescued from the wrath to come); 2:19 (the church is looking forward to the coming/advent/return of the Lord); 3:13 (looking forward to the coming of the Lord); 4:13-18 (see notes above); 5:1-11 (see notes above); 5:23 (Paul hopes that those he is writing to will be among those who are alive and caught up to meet the Lord in the air and be changed; he hopes that their bodies are not already in the grave but that their spirit, soul and body are preserved complete/whole at that time).
II Thes. 1:6-10, Paul speaks here of Christ's physical visible return on "that day," at the end of the tribulation, when He comes in judgment, with His angels, to be seen by all; 2:1-12 (see notes above).
I Tim. 6:14-15 Looking forward to the appearing of the Lord.
II Tim. 2:11-13 The church will reign with Christ in the kingdom. True believers are those who endure, as opposed to those who appeared for awhile to be believers, but who then showed by their lack of enduring that they were never true believers in the first place. Those who deny Him are not faithless Christians; they are spoken of in the next verse. Christ will deny those who denied Him, who refused to truly believe-unbelievers, Mat. 10:33. Mat. 7:21-23 speaks of those who NEVER knew Him-fake believers or make-believers. Those who are the elect cannot believe and then "un-believe" so as to no longer be saved; the elect cannot choose to become "un-elect," John 6:39. God knew the elect from the foundations of the world, Eph. 1:4.
II Tim. 3:1-5,13 The church is be aware that things will get worse in the last days, and to be careful to avoid these things ourselves. This section could be talking about the world in general, but several things point to the possibility that Paul is speaking of the state of the CHURCH in the last days. The world has always been like this. The unsaved world has always been "unholy," 2, and "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God," 4. The church is never warned of the tribulation to come, but IS warned of the condition of the church just before Christ returns. See also Mat. 13 and Acts 20:28-30.
II Tim. 4:1-4 Paul references Christ's appearing and His kingdom, but not the tribulation. He again warns that the church will turn away from sound doctrine/truth.
II Tim. 4:8 One of the rewards is for all those who have "loved His appearing." We are to look forward to and long for the day we may meet Him in the air (Mat. 6:10, "Thy kingdom come!").
II Tim. 4:18 Paul is looking to be rescued from evil deeds; we know he is not saying Christians will never experience hardship, because Paul himself tells of his many hardships and how we must endure hardships for the sake of Christ. So he must be speaking of something else-the tribulation. He relates this rescue from evil to being brought (preserved/made whole) to heaven. By greater application, we can also say that no matter what evil deeds are going on around us, God has us in His complete control, and nothing can take us out of His hand; heaven awaits us as our sure hope.
Titus 2:11-13 How the church is to live: in the constant expectation of the appearing of the Lord, not of the tribulation.
Heb. 9:28 The church is to eagerly await His appearing--eagerness would not be our mood if the tribulation were next on the agenda.
Heb. 10:25 "The day" is coming soon, we know because we see the stage being set all around us in world events, Mat. 24:33; 10:35-37, Christ will return soon, with rewards to follow.
Heb. 11:16 We are citizens of heaven, we are not of "those who dwell on the earth," God is preparing a place for the church-the New Jerusalem, compare John 14:1-3, Rev. 21; 11:39-40, God has a unique plan for both the Old Testament saints and the church, they will not be "completed" before us because they are waiting on God's plan for the church age to be completed.
Heb. 12:22-24 The heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, awaits the church; the spirits of the righteous who are already in heaven will be "completed" when they finally receive their eternal resurrection bodies, I Cor. 15:49-58.
Heb. 13:14 Our citizenship is not of this world, we are not of "those who dwell on the earth," our heavenly home will be the New Jerusalem, Rev. 21.
James 1:12 One of the promised rewards.
I Peter 1:13, our minds are to be on the appearing of the Lord for us; 4:7, Christ's appearing for us is near, we are to be watching, preparing, anticipating; 5:4, one of the promised rewards.
II Peter 3:9-13 The church is told why Jesus hasn't come yet-He is giving opportunity for more to repent. The day of the Lord (all the events following our being caught up) will come upon the world unexpectedly; endtime events will culminate in the destruction of the earth and a new earth. Knowing this, the church is urged to look expectantly with anticipation for the Lord's appearing. We are to "hasten" that day: speed, urge on, await eagerly.
I John 2:18 Not only is there the prophesied individual, the Antichrist, but there are many who have claimed and will claim to be Christ; 2:22, the Antichrist is "the liar" (compare "the lie" in II Thes. 2:11) and denies the true identity of the Father and the Son; 2:28, apparently when the church is caught up, some believers will feel shame rather than anticipation and joy because of the way they have lived their lives; 3:2, we will be instantly changed when we are caught up, we will actually see Him; 4:2-3, Satan has always had someone on the earth's scene that has the spirit of antichrist, and could be the Antichrist if the Lord appeared, because although Satan is obviously aware of prophecy, he does not know God's timing yet must always be ready with his own plan.
Jude 1:21 The church is to be waiting anxiously for the Lord's appearing, not for the tribulation.
Rev. 22:20 The last recorded words of Jesus are, "Yes, I am coming quickly" [by surprise, suddenly]. This cannot be referring to His physical, visibly return to earth because that is to be preceded by known signs and a known timetable; we do not know the day or hour of that return, Mat. 24:36, but by implication we may know the month or year, because of the seven-year time frame from the Antichrist's signing of the covenant, Dan. 9:27. Our response is to be, "Amen" [so be it, a firm and trustworthy statement]. "Come, Lord Jesus." This is to be our focus.
I & II JOHN: THE ANTICHRIST
We will just look at a couple verses here. John is the only writer in the Bible who uses the term "antichrist" so we want to look at what he says. What do we learn about this term in I John 2:18? Is John speaking of a particular person--that wicked person we just read about in Revelation 13? The context includes 2:19; who is "they" in 19? What are "they" like?
The next use of the word is in I John 2:22. What do we learn here about antichrist? Is John speaking of the person in Revelation 13? Who is he speaking about? So what have we learned so far about antichrist? John seems to be referring to false teachers. What in particular characterizes these false teachers?
"Anti-" means against in this context; they are against "Christ." Is that Jesus' name, or His title? "Jesus" is the human name given to the Son of God when He was born as a baby. When He is referred to in the Old Testament, He is never called "Jesus" because He hadn't been born yet and given that human name. He is sometimes referred to in the Old Testament as the promised Messiah or the Christ that will come one day; "Christ" means Messiah or Anointed One, the one God promised to send.
So in thinking what it means to be "anti-Christ," we might ask, who is the Messiah? Is. 9:6-7 describes Him: a child (the babe in Bethlehem), a son (the Son of God), the government will rest on His shoulders (He will rule His earthly kingdom), His name will be called Wonderful Counselor (the Holy Spirit is the Counselor, John 14:26, 16:7-8; He is equated with God the Holy Spirit so He is divine), Mighty God (He is God), Eternal Father (He is eternal, therefore divine, He is equated with God the Father), Prince of Peace (He is the Messiah who will bring peace with God through His blood and peace on earth in the millenial kingdom).
John is saying that false teaching which denies Jesus is the Christ is denying that Jesus (the man) is the Christ (divine). They deny His God/man nature, that He is both fully man and fully God. They deny the Father and the Son: they deny that God is a Father who has a Son named Jesus. Jews, Muslims, and many others believe in a "God," but if He is not the Father of Jesus Christ, He is not the God of the Bible, and is therefore a different god, a false god. The God of the Bible is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit--the Trinity--the only true and living God. Anyone who denies the Son, 2:23, denies these facts that the Bible teaches about Jesus. They "do not have the Father" so they are not saved. If you deny Jesus, you do not have access to the Father because Jesus is the Way, John 14:6. If you deny these facts about Jesus, you are not saved, no matter who you claim to believe in or how religious you are.
Anyone who denies this is anti-christ, because all those facts are tied up in the idea of "Christ." Isaiah 53 teaches that the Messiah will come to be pierced, crushed, chastened and scourged for the sins of us all; many who are anti-christ deny that man is sinful and in need of a Savior/Messiah, or deny that Jesus shed His blood on the cross for our sins, or deny that He physically rose from the dead, proving He is God, conquering death and sin.
John's final reference to antichrist is II John 1:7-9. Again we see the warning against false teachers--those who are antichrist. Deceiver: imposter, seducer, misleader (Strong's). False teaching is in the world, and the church, today, and even existed in John's day. It sounds good so it seduces believers away from biblical truth. Christians are warned to have our eyes and ears wide open and our "antennae" out to discern true teaching from false teaching. Again we see the biblical warning to believers--to the church--against deception, which is Satan's main game. Much is written in the Epistles (letters to churches and individuals) about dealing with deception in the church and with deceptive teachers or individuals. Is deception always easy to spot, or easy to stop? Why? How can we guard against it?
So if these are the only Bible references to the term "antichrist," is it really biblical to refer to the person in Rev. 13 by the title of "Antichrist"? I'm thinking this is not exactly biblical. John calls him the beast, so from here on in my notes, I will refer to the beast, not to the Antichrist. (There are also other Bible terms for this person, such as the man of sin, the lawless one, etc.)
Before we leave the New Testament, also note John 14:3. Does this verse speak of the second coming, or us going to heaven when we die, or the rapture? At the rapture, He will come and receive us unto Himself, and go to be where He is. Jesus did not teach of the rapture--He revealed it later to the apostles. But He did allude to it here, although the disciples would not have understood at the time that He was foreshadowing it.
The Lord's Prayer
Mat. 6:10 Jesus taught His followers to pray, "Thy kingdom come." In going through Matthew, we saw that the kingdom has two aspects-the present spiritual kingdom, and the coming physical kingdom. Christ spoke often of both. Surely both aspects are in view in the Lord's prayer. So in praying that His kingdom come, we are looking forward to the day Christ returns visibly and physically to reign over His earthly kingdom. That day can't happen until the end of the tribulation, and the tribulation can't happen until the church is caught up to meet the Lord in the air. So when we pray this prayer, we are praying for the rapture to come soon, just as we are taught throughout the Epistles and Revelation, as we saw above. Matthew is writing to Israel, not the church, so he doesn't speak to them of the rapture, which is for the church (Acts 2 and on). He speaks to them of the kingdom, which they know about from the Old Testament prophecies.
"Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Again we see two meanings. We desire to do what is pleasing to God, to the best of our abilities, and we desire for others to also do what is pleasing to God. God permits all men to do what they want, and most are not doing what God desires. But when Christ returns to rule over His earthly kingdom, God's will WILL be done on this earth; man's kingdom will end, and God's kingdom will begin-a righteous kingdom ruled by Christ and administered by the church in their eternal sinless state. So when we pray "Thy will be done," we are echoing what we just prayed-"Thy kingdom come."
Matthew 13: The Mystery Parables (parables of the kingdom)
When the Lord was teaching His disciples, the church age had not yet begun. He was presenting the kingdom to Israel if they would accept Him as their Messiah, which they didn't. In Mat. 12 we see the beginning of His break with the Pharisees, especially in 12:14. 12:15-21 show that even the Old Testament prophesied that salvation would also be offered to the Gentiles, which is the direction His ministry would now take.
In 13, known as the Mystery Parables Discourse, He gives clues as to what the kingdom of heaven (the spiritual kingdom, the church age) would look like now that the earthly kingdom has been postponed. This is a description and prophecy of the church age, which will begin following the resurrection. We see in the parable of the seed and the sower that not all who hear will be saved. In 13:18-23 Jesus gives three reasons why people will not believe and be saved: the devil, Self, and the world. These three continue to be the foes of the believer.
Then in 13:24 He gives the parable of the wheat and the tares. In the church age it will sometimes be difficult to tell true believers (the wheat) from make-believers (the tares). In the parable of the mustard seed, 13:31-32, something grows unnaturally large and becomes a nesting place for birds. The church will become a huge institution; birds (often used symbolically in the Bible to represent evil, compare 13:3,19) will be at home there. In 13:33 we find a similar picture; leaven is often used symbolically of sin. A woman is also sometimes used symbolically in a negative context; especially compare the woman in Rev. 17. Sin will infiltrate the church and grow and practically take over.
In His explanation of the parable of the wheat and tares in 13:36-43, Jesus explains what will happen at the end of the age (the church age). 40-42, unbelievers will be removed from the earth for eternal judgment, apparently in a "reverse rapture." 43, believers that are left alive at the end of the tribulation will be those who populate the kingdom, which begins when Christ returns visibly and physically at the end of the tribulation.
The same picture is presented in 47-50. At the end of that age, mankind will be separated. First the bad (unbelievers) are removed, and the righteous (believers) are left, at the beginning of Christ's earthly kingdom. So when Christ begins to rule on earth, all people alive at that time will be believers, in their earthly, mortal bodies. They will continue to marry and reproduce. There will also be people (the church) in their eternal sinless resurrected state, ruling and reigning with Christ, helping administer His global government. We will read more on this later in Matthew.
Matthew 24: The Olivet Discourse
Matthew 24, the Olivet Discourse, is speaking to Israel, because Matthew is the Gospel written to Israel (Mark is written to the Romans, Luke is written to the Greeks, John is written to the early believers). So when Jesus speaks of His coming, 3, He will speak of the second coming, not the rapture, which only concerns the church. However, we will read some things that apply to the church, or that dovetail with other Scripture directed to the church. The NASB says "end of the age," 3, not "end of the world," as the KJV says, which is rather misleading.
It's unclear if 24:4-8 speaks of the time leading up the seven years of tribulation, or the beginning of the tribulation itself, which I lean toward (birth pangs, 8, don't go on endlessly but actually are the start of the birth process). False "christs," wars, famines and earthquakes have always been around. Apparently these will especially characterize the beginning of the seven years, or will multiply just before it starts. This parallels the chronological account in Revelation, especially 6, 8 and 9.
We saw elsewhere that the seven years will start at the signing of the covenant by the man of lawlessness, the beast, Dan. 9:27, which can't happen until some time after the church has been caught up and removed from the earth, II Thes. 2:1-12, leaving only unbelievers on the earth.
While this has also happened before the tribulation, apparently the first thing that happens is that many will claim to be the Christ, and will mislead many. This doesn't necessarily mean they claim to be Jesus. "Christ" means "Messiah" or "anointed one," the promised one. When the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, was born in human flesh, His parents named Him Jesus (not Christ, or Jesus Christ). His title is Christ; He is the Christ. Jesus Christ means Jesus, the Christ--Jesus, the Messiah.
So, many will come and claim to be the christ--the promised one, the messiah, deity. Many New Age writings speak of how we each need to develop our "christ-consciousness"--the fact that we all have "the christ within us"--the divine spark, and can all be gods or godlike. Jesus says that these who come will come "in My name," or in His power and authority, claiming to be divine, to be the promised messiah that will save the world.
This parallels the first event of the tribulation in Rev. 6:1-2 where it seems that the false messiah, the beast, appears on a white horse; he only has a bow, unlike the true Messiah who has a sword-the Word of God. Deception will characterize this time, as we read in other passages. He doesn't reveal his evil identity until half way through the seven years, Dan. 9:27. The first half of the seven years will be characterized by frightening world events (Revelation gives details). Apparently they will be so frightening that it will appear the end is near, but Jesus says it will not yet be the end.
Who are these "many" that falsely come in the name of Christ? I have detailed in my notes on Daniel 7 why I believe that "aliens"--fallen angels in disguise--will appear at this time and play a major part in the events of the great tribulation. I believe it is very possible that the beast and the false prophet, Rev. 13, will be demon-aliens or partly both--some sort of demon-alien/human hybrid or clone. There are several passages that seem to imply this.
First, when God curses the serpent in Gen. 3:15, He speaks of "your seed and her seed"-Satan's seed and the woman's seed. The woman's seed would be human, with the implication of virgin birth-Jesus, fully man, born of a woman, but at the same time fully God, Col. 1:19. Satan's "seed" could be his demons--the angels who followed him--or perhaps the demonic offspring that result from the evil reproductive and genetic experiments that "alien abductees" have reported, as demons seek bodies to inhabit. Compare Gen. 6.
Second, Dan. 2:40-43 speaks of the final earthly kingdom before the Messiah returns, "partly of potter's clay and partly of iron," and "they will combine with one another in the seed of men." This is an unnatural mixture. Clay would refer to man, made of the dust of the earth. Something will be combined with mortal man, something hard and tough, something that will crush, break and shatter. Dan. 7:19-24 adds that this kingdom will be "different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful," and will devour, crush and trample the whole earth; this ruler will be "different from the previous ones" and will "destroy to an extraordinary degree," 8:24. Something very different is going on in this final evil kingdom. Compare Rev. 9:1-11 where the bottomless pit is opened.
Third, Mat. 25:41 tells us that the eternal fire was "prepared for the devil and his angels," not for man. No one is yet in the lake of fire; the beast and his false prophet will be thrown alive into the lake of fire when Christ returns at the end of the great tribulation, Rev. 19:20, and Satan is thrown in the lake of fire at the end of the millenial kingdom, Rev. 20:10. Unsaved mankind is later thrown into the lake of fire following the great white throne judgment, Rev. 20:13-15. If the beast and the false prophet are human, it seems unbiblical that men are the first to be thrown in the lake of fire before Satan, for whom it was prepared. But if the beast and the false prophet are demonic, this would seem to line up with God's purposes.
My fourth reason for assuming the Antichrist is not a mere man is the term "beast." NASB uses "creature" but KJV uses "beast" to refer to heavenly beings, 4:6-9 and other passages. (Strong's: living thing, animal, creature.) The Antichrist is referred to as a beast, but with a slightly different term (Strong's: wild, venomous creature). The implication is a heavenly being, which would include Satan and demons.
My final reason is found in Rev. 11:7, where he is described as "the beast that comes up out of the abyss" and 17:8, "the beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss..." The abyss is the abode of demons, not men.
It's also possible that these "aliens" appear later, at the 3 1/2 year point when the beast of Rev. 13 reveals his Satanic identity and claims deity. 12:7-9 tells that at that point Satan and his angels are thrown out of heaven and are thrown down to the earth. Or perhaps they, or some of them, make a seemingly innocuous, peaceful appearance at the beginning of the seven years, then show their true identity at the time of the "abomination of desolation." Or perhaps at that point they are joined by more of their evil cohorts. Or perhaps, none of these possibilities! But the chronological order of Mat. 24 seems to indicate this happening first, 24:4-5.
Mat. 24:9-10, "then," after some time passes, Jews will experience great persecution. Many will "fall away"-be caused to stumble, trip, be entrapped (Strong's Concordance). People will betray one another; perhaps there will be rewards for turning in certain people, and bounty hunters may abound. 11, again it is stressed that there will be MANY deceptive false prophets. Rev. 16:13 speaks of THE false prophet; he is described in 13:11-16 but not called by that name--simply called "another beast."
The increase in lawlessness, 24:12, parallels II Thes. 2:3, where the man of lawlessness is revealed, and 2:7, where the restrainer of evil is removed. 13, comparatively few will love the Lord and believe, but some will; those whose faith is enduring, despite conditions on the earth, will show themselves to be TRUE believers (remember, deception will abound).
14, the end of the age will not come until the gospel of the kingdom has been preached to the whole world. Some teach that this means Jesus won't come to catch up the church until missionaries have taken the gospel everywhere. This can't be the meaning, because it would mean that Christ could not have come for us at any time in the past, even though the Bible teaches that He could come at any time; Paul was expecting Him to return in his own day. The gospel has not yet been preached everywhere, so we could say, "Well, that means the rapture can't happen for awhile yet." This is unbiblical. Instead, compare this verse with Rev. 11:3-7, 14:6-7.
15-22 The abomination of desolation, 15, happens in the middle of the seven years, Dan. 9:27, at 3 1/2 years. This is when the greatest persecution will begin, when the beast shows his true identity, Rev. 13. The concern with travel on the Sabbath, 20, makes it clear that Matthew is speaking to Jews, not to the church. This last 3 1/2 years is called the "great" tribulation, 21. 22, the "elect" are those who God has elected (chosen ahead of time, Eph. 1:4). Some Jews at that time will believe, as will many non-Jews. Many Christians as well as Jews will be persecuted and killed. Compare Rev. 7.
For the third time, 24:23-28, we are warned about the false christs and false prophets (those who claim to come in Christ's name and to speak for Him) and their deception and satanic power. When the Bible repeats something three times, that is significant; these people will be a major factor in the tribulation. Revelation speaks also of the demonic forces that will be unleashed at that time. I believe that "aliens" will show up immediately after the rapture, take credit for the removal of the Christians, and present themselves as man's "saviors." New Age followers believe these are our elder brothers, the enlightened ones, the highly evolved, the ascended masters, etc.--the embodiments of the spirit masters that many have been channeling under various guises, including spirits who have falsely identified themselves as "Jesus" or "Mary." They will identify themselves as "christs," just as many already believe that we ALL have the "christ-consciousness" within us. I believe that there will be an apparition by "Mary" or perhaps a revelation of a previous apparition, in which "she" endorses these "aliens" and the beast in particular, thereby causing a great many people to accept their lies, especially "religious" people who were left behind because they did not believe in Jesus.
At the end of the seven years of tribulation, there will be disasters in space, 29; compare Rev. 6:12-14, 8:10-12. Christ will return to earth, visibly ("all" will see) and with glory, 30; compare Rev. 19:11-16. When He appears, His identity will be known to all, and many will "mourn" or wail. Israel will mourn as she finally recognizes her true Messiah and recognizes her great sins of the past by refusing Him; compare Zech. 12:10-14. The unsaved of the earth will wail as they are finally face to face with the truth of who Jesus is, but it will be too late for them; their choice was made when they took the "mark of the beast;" compare Rev. 13:16-18, 14:9-11, 19:19-21, 20:4.
Some teach that all this was fulfilled in 70 A.D. at the destruction of Jerusalem, but obviously these things have not yet all happened. We do see that throughout history there have been people and events that were "types" of what has been prophesied; they have been a partial fulfillment, but the complete fulfillment is yet to come. The only way that past events could be viewed as fulfillment is to allegorize them and not take the Bible at its word.
24:31, the angels separate the believers from the unbelievers, as we read in Mat. 13; this will be explained more in the next few verses. This is not describing the rapture, as some think; the angels do not gather the church, I Thes. 4:16-17.
24:32-33 speaks of the fig tree, sometimes used in the Bible to symbolize Israel; trees are often used symbolically of nations. Fig: Hosea 9:10, Micah 7:1, Mat. 21:19, Luke 13:6-9. Trees: Jud. 9:8-15, Dan. 4, Is. 2:12-17. We are to be noticing what is going on in the world around us and comparing it to what we read in Scripture. We are to notice what is going on with the nations of the world and especially with Israel. Compare Eze. 37.
Even though Matthew is not writing to or of the church, we can compare Scripture regarding the fig tree and find application for the church. Song of Sol. 2:10-14 speaks of the fig tree in an interesting passage where the king is speaking to his bride (picturing Christ and the church), telling her to arise and come along (picturing the church caught up to meet Christ in the air), at the time when the fig tree is ripe and the vines are ready for pruning (pruning/harvest represents judgment coming to the nations of the earth). His bride will be hidden (saved from this time of God's wrath) in the cleft of the rock (Christ). In 2:8 the bride is listening, looking for his coming, just as the church is told to be doing in the Epistles.
What is the meaning of 24:34--who will not pass away? Some think it refers to the Jewish race or the human race, but this fact has already been established in Old Testament prophecy. Some think it refers to those Jesus was talking to, but we see that He talked to them of many things that would happen AFTER their lifetimes, so it can't mean that. As they could observe the fig tree growing, they would know when it is almost time for fruit to appear. The generation that sees all the events Jesus just described is the generation that will see Jesus return. All these events will happen rapidly; these are not events that are spread out over many decades or centuries. In 1948, Israel--the fig tree--has once again become a nation, as prophesied (compare Eze. 37). That's why many believers think these events are right around the corner--just watch the news. We can see the setting of the stage for the prophesied events. If indeed the fig tree is a reference to Israel, and Israel's rebirth, the generation that sees all these things take place is us.
Another question is, how long is a generation, 24:34? Some have used these verses to set dates for Christ's return, figuring from 1948. Could it mean the average length of a generation, or the length of a generation in Jesus's day, or our day? There is no definitive time length for a generation. It says "this generation will not pass away." If indeed it is referring to those alive when Israel becomes a nation, it implies that at least SOME of those will still be alive. It can't mean that ALL of those will still be around, because many of those have already died. It doesn't say anything about an average, so no one should try to pin a number on the term "generation." God obviously does not want us to predict dates-just to be ready. In Mat. 16:13, Jesus says we should be able to discern the signs of the times.
So how does one determine which of these interpretations of "this generation" is the correct one? Must we just choose ONE? Is it possible that several or even all of the above interpretations are included in this phrase? Studying through the Old Testament, we have seen that prophecies often have several layers of meaning, all of which are true, and none of which contradict the others. The Jewish race will not be destroyed by man before Christ returns, nor will the human race manage to annihilate itself, even though it has the means. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD did partially fulfill this prophecy. And it is also quite possible that the generation that sees the birth of the nation Israel will not pass away (experience natural death). We should not be dogmatic but should consider all the possibilities. For more on this subject, compare my notes on Daniel 7.
If we are the generation of the church that will be caught up alive, why would God choose this generation of unbelievers to receive His wrath, rather than any other? Why would one particular generation be chosen to bear the horrors of the Daniel's 70th week? There are several things unique in the history of man that came into being about the same time that Israel-the fig tree--became a nation in 1948. TV, computers and credit cards all arose about 1950. Think of the evils that TV and computers have brought to children, to families, to society. In spite of their good aspects, they have brought into our homes an unbelievable familiarity with immorality. The creation, easy distribution (print, TV, computer, cell phone) and indulgence in pornography are modern-day sins, resulting in the early sexualization and corruption of children and young people. Credit cards have made it unbelievably easy to indulge greed and materialism, which the Bible equates with idolatry--a sin condemned over and over throughout Scripture. Besides individual greed, businesses and governments have been corrupted by greed; dare I single out especially the insurance industry and Big Pharma? We see in Revelation 17 that God will judge the corrupt godless world economic system. Those who have created these evils will experience God's wrath, along with those who have indulged and reveled in them.
The other side of the coin is that this generation has had greater access to the Good News than any people in history. More people know how to read and have access to written words than at any time. People have access to Bibles, Christian books and study helps, Christian TV and radio, and internet resources. Churches and Bible studies are more available than ever. God has always had His witness in His creation (Rom. 1:19-20); today there is less excuse than ever for not knowing about His Word (the Bible) or His Son (Jesus). Because knowledge of the truth is so widespread, many today are unbelievers because they have REJECTED the truth, not merely because they never heard it. This is the generation that God will judge the harshest.
24:35 gives us an important rule for interpreting God's Word. God's Word is truth. It doesn't just contain ideas and concepts; rather, each word is significant. The literal interpretation is the best and most biblical approach to interpretation.
24:36 is often quoted in connection with the catching up of the church, an event which many think is found in this chapter. However, Jesus is speaking to Jews of His second coming to the earth at the end of the tribulation; the church is not being addressed, because the church does not come on the scene until Acts 2. Matthew is writing his account to Israel about looking for Christ's return at the end of the seven years of tribulation. They will not know the day or hour, 24:36, but they might know the year or month because they know when the covenant was signed. The Bible speaks often of the seven years (Dan. 9:27), in terms of two periods of 3 1/2 years, 42 months (Rev. 11:2, 13:5), 1260 days (Rev. 11:3, 12:6). Dan. 7:25, 12:7 and Rev. 12:14 speak of time (a year), times (two years), and half a time (half a year).
Note the chronological order of this chapter and the next. If this were indeed speaking of the rapture, the rapture would happen at the end of the tribulation, following Christ's return, 24:30. Yet the same principle obviously applies to the rapture, and Jesus may be foreshadowing the rapture to those of us in the church age; no one knows when it may happen, so we should be ready and expectantly waiting every day.
The analogy Jesus makes to Noah's day in 37-39 can have several possible meanings. There is nothing wrong with eating, drinking, or marrying; it doesn't necessarily imply that life is "normal" since Mat. 24 and Revelation make it clear that life on earth will not be normal. The point is that godless society carried on despite warnings that judgment was coming, right up till the last moment. Comparing Gen. 6, we find society characterized by immorality, violence, and the influence of the Nephilim--apparently demons (fallen angels). Jesus says it will be the same when judgment falls. Revelation reveals much demonic activity.
In Gen. 6:1-2, "the sons of God"--wicked angels--married human women. Jesus does not say in Mat. 22:29-30 that angels are sexless; angels always appear as men, in normal men's bodies. The homosexual men of Sodom desired them for sexual relations. The angels in heaven--the good angels--do not marry, but apparently the wicked angels do as they please. I Pet. 3:18-20 and II Pet. 2:4 confirm that some of wicked angels, in the days of Noah, 2:5, sinned in a way that caused them to be confined in the pit. Jude 6-7 tells that they engaged in strange, sexual immorality.
They produced unnatural offspring--the "mighty men of old, men of renown," Gen. 6:4. It is interesting that mythology records the existence of demigods, super-humans who were the offspring of humans and gods. Gen. 6:4 calls them the Nephilim. These offspring were neither human (and redeemable) nor angelic. Even though Noah preached for 120 years as he was preparing the ark, no one believed--only his immediate family was saved. Why did no one respond to his preaching? Apparently all mankind but his family were evil and corrupted by their very nature, 6:5. God had to wipe out mankind in order to save the future of mankind, that His promise of a future Redeemer, Gen. 3:15, could be fulfilled.
Jesus' comparison lends weight to the idea that once again, mankind will be corrupted at an elemental level, so that none who receive the mark can be saved, or probably would even desire to. Again, the future of humanity is at stake, and God must intervene: "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved," Mat. 24:22. All those who have taken the mark will be removed to judgment, and the tribulation saints will be left to inherit the kingdom.
The original sin was based on the desire to be god-like, Gen. 3:5. Mankind still hopes to accomplish this goal. Evolution claims that man is evolving, and the next step up the evolutionary ladder is to evolve beyond our human limitations into a higher state. Today's computer technology holds out the possibility, in the near future, of combining man and machine, so that man will be a hybrid human/machine. Could something like this scenario explain the mark of the beast, and the inability of those who take it to repent? The beast will control a powerful cashless global economy, and the power to buy and sell. He might offer people the power to become super-human, like him; he could force it on people by controlling their ability to buy and sell. Christians, knowing the truth, would not believe "The Lie," and be willing to pay with their lives.
Just as the church will be caught up and will not experience God's judgment, so in Noah's day the righteous were removed before judgment fell. As they were in the ark seven days before the flood came and destroyed the world, so the church will be in heaven seven years before the end of the day of wrath comes. Compare Gen. 7:7-10.
Many people see the rapture in 24:40-41. If so, the chronological order of Mat. 24 would place the rapture at the end of the great tribulation and after the return of Christ. But Mat. 13 makes it clear that this "taking" is the taking of the wicked to judgment before the kingdom, with the righteous left to inherit the kingdom. Zeph. 3:11-12 gives the same picture; compare the entire chapter for context. Also Ps. 52:5 (read chapter for context). If the rapture happened at the end of the tribulation, all believers would be changed to their immortal state, and there would be none left to repopulate the earthly kingdom.
24:42-44 again note that the day (42) and the hour (44) won't be known, but to be on the alert; they should know the month and year. Some believe the phrase "no man knows the day or hour" is a reference to the Feast of Trumpets, the first of the fall feasts of Israel, and the next to be fulfilled. Jesus fulfilled the three spring feasts at His first coming; He will fulfill the three fall feasts at His second coming. In between comes the Feast of Pentecost, which Jesus fulfilled at the "birth" of the church on the day the Holy Spirit was sent to indwell believers. Some believe the rapture must happen on the Feast of Trumpets, but that would mean that each year, once that date has passed, Jesus CANNOT return for another year; on the contrary, the Bible teaches that we are to be looking expectantly for Him every day (the doctrine of imminence). But if the second coming happens on the Feast of Trumpets, which takes place over two days, this could refer to the possibility of either of those two days.
24:45-51 teaches that those who are faithful to the Lord will be rewarded with responsibilities in the kingdom that is about to be inaugurated; God will put them "in charge of his household" and "of all his possessions." This will be reiterated in Mat. 25. Unbelievers (the evil) will be taken away to judgment before the kingdom age begins.
Mat. 25 continues on in chronological order, still answering the disciples' question of 24:3. Jesus has been speaking to them of the end of this age; now He speaks of the coming of the next age--the kingdom age. 25:1-13 is a parable about the kingdom, and who will enter.
Since the church is the bride, the ten virgins cannot be any members of the church; the wedding has already taken place, and entrance to the wedding feast is the issue, 10. The virgins seem to represent Israel, and the wedding feast takes place on earth following Christ's return with His bride. (Gentiles will be dealt with later in this chapter.) Compare Ps. 45:13-15, Luke 12:35-36. According to Jewish custom, the wedding feast took place after the wedding. Compare Rev. 19:7-9. Those who were ready at the bridegroom's return (the second coming) went into the wedding feast, and the door was shut. Those who were not ready for the bridegroom do not go in. Oil often represents the Holy Spirit, so some had received salvation and some hadn't. When Christ returns, it will be too late to try to get ready; the day of salvation will be past.
25:14-30 is another parable about the kingdom; the master goes away and entrusts his servants (all mankind) with responsibilities concerning his many possessions until his return. The servants handle their responsibilities in different ways and are rewarded or punished accordingly when the man returns and settles up with them. The reward is for faithfulness with what they were entrusted with (not for how many they witnessed to, helped to get saved, or how much of God's Word they learned or memorized). Likewise, Rom. 1:19-20 teaches that men are held responsible for the amount of knowledge they have access to.
This passage gives clues about God's plan for our future. In the kingdom age, each believer will be given responsibilities, apparently based on what he did in this life. It also reveals one of God's purposes in our present life. When we wonder about the things God allows in our lives and our trials and temptations, we can be encouraged by knowing that in this life, God is preparing and training us for what we will be doing in our resurrection bodies in the kingdom age, when the church rules and reigns with Christ, helping Him administer His righteous global kingdom. He is particularly after faithfulness.
After we die, we don't just go to heaven, sit on clouds, play harps, rest and enjoy ourselves, etc.; God has work for us to do. Apparently this short life is a training ground. Compare Rev. 2:26, 5:9-10, 20:4, Luke 12:42-44, 16:10-11, 19:11-19. Apparently the church is in heaven with Christ until the end of the tribulation; then we return to this earth, where life will go on for 1,000 more years. However, our heavenly home is the New Jerusalem, Rev. 21:2, so apparently we travel back and forth between there and earth.
25:31-46 tells what will happen at Christ's return, when He prepares to sit on His earthly throne, 31. "The nations," 32, are not countries; we know God does not save or reject entire countries but looks at each individual heart. The Bible often uses the term "nations" to refer to Gentiles-all nations other than Israel. Apparently 32 is speaking of all Gentiles (non-Jews) who remain alive at the end of the tribulation; 25:1-13 dealt with the Jews. The Gentiles are separated into two groups; Jesus often refers to His followers as His sheep. 34, His followers, the righteous, will now inherit the kingdom, based on how they treated Him, 35-36. Apparently He is speaking to them of how they treated Jews ("these brothers of Mine") during the tribulation, as the proof of their faithfulness and belief.
We get the picture that during the great persecution of Jews, when those who do not take the mark of the beast cannot buy or sell, others who do not take the mark will risk their own lives to help Jews and care for them, perhaps even hiding Jews as in the days of Anne Frank. This passage is teaching what James speaks of--that faith without works is dead. Those with saving faith will show it by their works. Those without true saving faith will be shown for who they really are, by their works. Actions truly do speak louder than words.
The lake of fire, 41, was not prepared for unbelievers, but for the devil and his fallen angels. However, they will take with them those who have chosen and followed Satan's way. God does not "send" unbelievers to hell. Unbelievers choose not to believe; God has allowed them the free will to make that choice if they wish. He has offered the free gift of salvation to all, but not all choose to accept it. We also learn from this passage that our love for the Lord will be demonstrated and proven by how we treat others.
Mat. 25 gives us quite a bit of insight into God's Big Picture. Understanding these things will help us better accept and respond faithfully to the challenges God gives us and will help us put things in perspective in the Big Picture.
Now let's go back to Revelation and go through the book-not verse by verse, but trying to get the flow of events. Revelation is not nearly as hard to understand as many think; it appears to follow a chronological order, and many of the symbols are explained, in the book or elsewhere in the Bible. (It helps to have read the rest of the Bible before trying to make sense of the final part, just like in any complex book.) As with any part of the Bible that may seem hard to understand, it's good not to get hung up on trying to understand every verse and every word; just read on and get the main idea.
Sometimes we say it is hard to understand, when perhaps the real problem is that we find it hard to believe. If we are unsure if something is literal or symbolic, then it's best not to be dogmatic but to consider the various possibilities with an open mind. It also helps to remember that apparently John is describing what he saw and heard--a vision of futuristic events and technology--in the terms and language that he had available at that time.
Rev. 1:1, these things must "soon" take place; the idea is of imminence--taking place soon, at any time, and of velocity--of things taking place quickly, in a short period of time. 2, "he saw"--John SAW these things in a vision. 3, there is a blessing for those who read, hear, and heed these things. Prophecy is not a subject to be avoided, nor is it as hard to understand as some would make it out to be. Blessed: happy, fortunate, well off. Again, the time is near/at hand--these things could begin to happen at any time.
1:7, this revelation is about the return of Jesus Christ. 10, John hears a voice; 12, the voice is that of Jesus, who is described in somewhat symbolic language in 12-16. 19 gives us an outline of the revelation: what John HAS seen (Jesus, 12-16), things which ARE (the present church age, chapters 2-3), and the things which will take place AFTER these things (after the church age--the rest of the book).
20, stars sometimes symbolically represent angels in the Bible, just as the term "hosts of heaven" seems to have that dual meaning. We also know that the word "angel" in the Bible can be translated "messenger," which could speak of a human messenger. In Rev. 2-3, the angel of each church is given a message for that church; it's unclear if the meaning is human or heavenly messenger. If each letter is addressed to a heavenly being associated with a certain church or with believers in a certain city, then it would appear that the message is given to the church through the angel. If the angel is a human, it would not appear to be pastor (pastors/elders are never called angels) but perhaps a messenger from each of these churches that received and carried John's message to his church. Revelation mentions various types of heavenly beings (good and evil), not all of which are called angels. We will look at them as we come to them.
Rev. 2-3 are letters to seven churches of John's day, which also happen to be representative of seven types of churches which have been present in all ages, and of the church age as it progressed throughout history. This layering of meanings is common throughout Scripture, especially in prophecy, where there is an obvious literal meaning for the reader of that day, and a "near" and partial fulfillment. Then there may be other meanings, such as a later, greater, complete fulfillment in the distant future, and possibly even other implications and applications, none of which contradict each other. This is one of the wonders and mysteries of God's Word. It is like an onion with many layers.
2:10 speaks of one of the rewards for believers--the crown of life. 23 and 26 both teach what we have seen in various other passages, that believers will give account for their deeds--not for the loss of salvation, but for the giving or withholding of rewards, such as the amount of responsibility we will be given in Christ's kingdom. 3:3, the church is to always be ready and watching for the Lord.
We already looked at the final two churches earlier in the notes. 3:10, here we have the first use in Revelation of the phrase "those who dwell on the earth": the wicked, those who reject Jesus Christ, those on whom God is pouring out His wrath. It is found nine times in Revelation, and in Luke 21:35, speaking of the same time period. Not only is this church kept from the testing, it is kept from the hour--the very time period--of the testing. The hour of testing is not for the church, whose citizenship is in heaven, but for the unbelieving earthdwellers, whose focus is on the godless world system. As we go through Revelations, we will see that this is a group of unbelievers who God, in His foreknowledge, knows will never get saved--those upon whom He sends strong delusion, II Thes. 2:11-12. These are the "cursed" of Mat. 25:41 who are sent directly to the lake of fire at the second coming of Christ, not even having the opportunity of judgment at the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11).
Rev. 3:15-16, the false church, the one-world religion of the tribulation period, is nauseating to Jesus; they are not against Him or for Him, but are tolerant of all religious beliefs. Unlike the other six churches, there is no commendation for this church. Already today we can see this move toward religious unity and tolerance.
4:1 begins with a time clue, "after these things." What things? Church things (chapters 2-3); the church age is now over, and in Rev. 4 and 5 we see the church in heaven. The final true church before the tribulation, Philadelphia, is promised an open door, 3:8--perhaps for evangelizing the world, but also a door standing open in heaven. A voice like a trumpet, saying "come up here" reminds us of I Thes. 4:16-17. The elders, 4:4, speak of the church (Paul appointed elders in every church, Titus 1:5). 24 may point to the mystery of the church including both Jews and Gentiles, the 12 tribes and 12 apostles, or perhaps the 24 divisions of the Levitical priesthood--the church is now a priesthood, Israel is not. Compare the garments, 4:4, to Rev. 19:4, 7-8. The elders are sitting on thrones; the church is to rule and reign with Christ. They can't be angels; angels are never said to sit on thrones, and are never described as elders. They can't be Old Testament saints or Israel; they are not resurrected until after the second coming of Christ. The church is promised various crowns as rewards at the judgment seat of Christ, II Cor. 5:10 (angels do not have or get crowns); 4:10 shows us the purpose of this reward. In 4:10 we see worship used synonymously with "fall down" as we often find in the Bible. This term has been unbiblically redefined today to mean singing/music; we will note this term several times in Revelation.
In 4:6-9 we see the first use in Revelation of the term "beast" (KJV) or "living creature" (NASB). These beings are found in heaven around the throne of God. They are similar to the "living creatures" (KJV) or "living beings" (NASB) identified as cherubim (with four wings) found in Ezekiel 1 and 10. They are also similar to the seraphim of Isa. 6:1-6 (with six wings). They are neither seraphim or cherubim though. Beast/living creature (Greek/New Testament): a live thing, an animal, a beast. Beast/living creature (Hebrew/Old Testament): raw, fresh, alive, strong, beast, living thing or creature. We will see many angelic and demonic beings in Revelation; the Antichrist is referred to as "the beast."
5:2, here we see not just an angel, but a strong angel; the Bible shows different rankings of both angels and demons. We often use the term "angel" to refer to all heavenly beings, but "angels" may be merely one ranking of beings, apparently the type that appear visibly on earth as messengers of God, in the form of men in shining garments, with a glory that causes people to realize who they are and respond with fear. (Often their first words are "fear not.") There is some indication that some of them may be responsible for particular things, places or groups of people. 5:5-6, we do not see the name "Jesus Christ" as used in Rev. 1, as He is known to the church; we see terms that identify Him to Israel. Now that the church age is over, God is dealing with Israel once again--the final week ("seven") of Dan. 9's 70 weeks (70 "sevens"). The seven years of the great tribulation are the final events of God's plan for Israel. 5:6, a literal lamb with seven literal horns and eyes does not make sense, so here we see symbolism. The Lamb is Christ; horns in the Old Testament often speak of power, and eyes often speak of knowledge, wisdom. The number seven in the Bible signifies "all," completeness: all-powerful (omnipotent) and all-knowing (omniscient). 5:9 mentions not the Jewish nation, but the church, comprised of all nations. 5:10, the church will reign with Christ in His earthly kingdom, following the tribulation; compare 1:6. 5:11, there are many angels, myriads = tens of thousands. So we see in heaven the angels, the four creatures, and the church (the elders).
6:1, the events of the tribulation do not just happen; they are initiated by God and mark an unparalleled time of horror on earth (Jer. 30:7, Dan. 12:1, Mat. 24:21). In this chapter, six of seven seals are opened; we do not know if they happen one after the other, or all at the same time, overlapping. 6:2, the first event following the catching up of the church is the coming of the one on the white horse--the first of four horses. This is not Christ, who has just broken the seal, and who comes on a white horse in Rev. 19:11 at the end of the tribulation of the beast, with a sword, 19:15, which is the word of His mouth. This one comes at the beginning of the seven years of tribulation, and carries a bow, with no arrows. His crown is given to him; he does not take power through military victory, but deceitfully, Dan. 11:21-23, then proceeds on a course of conquering.
The red horse brings the cessation of peace--perhaps war, perhaps chaos, anarchy, cruel persecution, torture. Men will "slay" one another--a term used nowhere else in the Bible. Strong's: to butcher, slaughter, violently maim; perhaps some terrible type of killing one another that is new and different, or more violent and ugly than at any other time in history.
The black horse brings famine or some sort of food shortage, perhaps due to economic collapse or destruction of infrastructure--easily possible, as we read today's news. Oil and wine: perhaps there will still be plenty of luxuries for the rich and powerful.
The ashen/pale horse brings more death. Pestilence could easily be one of the super-bugs we have been hearing about, resistant to modern drugs. Wild beasts could be talking about animals harming men, or bringing diseases, but it happens to be the same word for "beast" used of "the beast" in 13:1, so perhaps it is talking about demonic creatures, or very possibly, includes both meanings.
6:9-11 speaks of the martyring of believers, which probably takes place during the entire time, but intensifies in the last half. Here we have evidence that many people will be saved AFTER the rapture--during the seven years of tribulation. They are called "souls" and are given robes, but will not receive their resurrection bodies until the kingdom (they have not yet received rewards--no crowns, as the church has already received). 10, again, earth-dwellers are distinguished.
Many Christians have the idea that when we are caught up, that means the last person has been saved--that if you have not believed before that point, you are lost. This is obviously not true. Rather, when the church is caught up, the last person who is part of the church, the bride of Christ, has been saved. When there is a mass disappearance of believers, probably many of those who had been skeptical or just had not yet believed, will at this point believe and become the first wave of new Christians. Their jaws will drop, their eyes will get big, and they will say, "Oh my...it was TRUE!" Just as the early church was fanatical to the death in their faith, having seen the risen Christ, so this group will be fanatical to the death in their faith, having seen their friends or family disappear right before their eyes and knowing the truth, regardless of the Beast's lying explanation of this event.
6:12-14 speaks of natural disasters--a massive earthquake (we constantly hear of predictions of this possibility) and cosmic events that impact the earth. 15-17, it is crystal clear to the earth-dwellers that God is behind all this, but they steadfastly refuse to repent. All are gripped by fear and panic as everything comes crashing down around them. None can hide from God or His wrath. This seven-year period, Daniel's 70th "week," is the "day of wrath"--not a 24-hour day, but a period of time, spoken of often in the Bible.
The seven seals seem to cover the entire seven-year period. Events in Revelation appear to be given in some sort of chronological order, but that could mean several things. It's possible that the events follow one after another exactly as we read them, chapter by chapter. It's possible that John is giving several scenarios--describing disasters, demonic activity, key personalities, etc. Each of these scenarios is given in chronological order, but the scenarios may be seen as overlays. It's possible that John was given the different scenarios separately and he is describing them as they were given to him, rather than as they literally happen in a time frame. We should not to be dogmatic in developing a timeline but consider various possibilities.
7:1-8 speaks of angel activity. There will be much activity in this period by angels, both good and bad. God's wrath includes sending harm to the entire earth (four corners, four winds) and the sea, 2. (Some commentators see earth and sea as also speaking symbolically throughout the Bible of Gentiles and Jews. Jud. 9 contains a parable of trees representing nations or authorities. Their use here can possibly include both meanings--literal and symbolic. The literal interpretation is always preferable to the symbolic; all symbols must be interpreted on the basis of previous use throughout the Bible.) The earth, trees and sea will be discussed in Rev. 8. The scene in 1-8 is on earth, where 144,000 Jews are sealed; apparently, they turn to Christ and become His protected witnesses.
7:9-17, the scene shifts to heaven where we see martyred tribulation saints; here is evidence that many will be saved during the tribulation, and many of those will be martyred. 11 clarifies that the elders cannot be angels; angels and elders are separate groups here. 13-14, this group of believers is different from the church; they were not in heaven when the church arrived (at the rapture) but came along afterwards. 16 speaks of the hardships they endured because they refused to take the mark (Rev. 13-14) and were not able to buy and sell, being at the mercy of those who dared to help them, unless God miraculously cared for them. The pain of former things will pass away in heaven, 17. Rev. 6 dealt with events happening on the earth; Rev. 7 deals with two particular groups of people--the 144,000 and the martyrs.
8:1, we had a pause between the opening of the first six seals and now the seventh. John's visions are given in a series of sevens, each with a lull between the sixth and the seventh. Again we note that the events of the day of wrath come directly from the Lord's hand. The silence speaks of great solemnity and even foreboding. 8:3-4, much prayer is taking place on earth by those who have become Christians. Many disasters take place on the earth, creating destruction of a huge magnitude: earthquakes, hail, fire, blood, and several events in the heavens. They may be happening in the order listed here, or John may simply be listing events that are all breaking forth simultaneously. 13, an eagle warns of three woes to come (some versions say "angel"), to who? Earthdwellers, not the church, which is already in heaven.
9:1, in the Bible angels are sometimes referred to as stars, as here this star is referred to as "him." This angel may be a high-ranking wicked angel, having the key to the bottomless pit (the abyss)--it could even be Satan. These don't appear to be literal locusts because they attack men, not vegetation, 3-5. Their appearance, 7-10, is not that of literal locusts, so it seems to be symbolic. Another clue that they are probably symbolic is the term "like" in 5, 7, 8, 9, 10.
Prov. 30:27 tells us that real locusts do not have a king over them, as we read in 11; here their king is Abaddon or Apollyon, meaning "destruction" or "destroyer"--a demon who is in charge of the abyss. So it seems "locusts" could also be hideous demons. Some think John is describing some sort of weaponry, using what terminology he could relate to as he tries to describe what he is seeing in this vision of endtimes events and possibly endtimes technology; however, they are specifically described as from the abyss--demonic. 12, this is the first woe.
Not only were some demons confined in the abyss; some were also confined in the Euphrates River, and are now released to continue the destruction of the earthdwellers, killing a third of mankind. We are reminded, 15, that God has planned this event along with ALL events, in His eternal sovereignty, and yet the Bible makes it clear that men and angels are responsible for their own choices and actions (free will) and are not robots programmed to act in certain ways. 17-19, the 200 million horses and riders could be literal armies (with John's description of weaponry) or demonic armies.
John gives us some insight into the reactions of the earthdwellers as God's wrath is poured out on them. The survivors are not moved to repent, but continue on in their false worship and great wickedness. In 20, the word for "sorceries" might refer to drug use, chemical weapons, or magic/witchcraft. We find "worship" referred to in 20 in connection with idols (that which is reverenced and served, that to which sacrifices are offered); no singing is in view here. 20 says they were worshiping demons, which lends weight to the idea that the locusts described are demonic creatures, which have faces like men. If indeed "aliens" are demonic creatures masquerading as beings from space, this could be describing an invasion of so-called "aliens."
10:1, some think the strong angel is Jesus Christ, but it says he is an angel, and John seems to think that he is. John had seen the Lamb of God in Rev. 5, and surely would recognize Him. When Jesus returns in 19:11-16, He is clearly identified as Christ the Lord, so He wouldn't be called a mere angel here. This is an amazing glimpse of the supernatural powers behind the scenes, just as the descriptions of the demons have been equally amazing. Both are extremely powerful and are truly awe-inspiring. Some think that "prophesy again" means that John has just finished describing the seven-year period, and now will again describe it from beginning to end, giving different information. Or it could mean that he is just being told to continue prophesying, or that he is about to be given a further prophecy.
11:1-2 refers to a rebuilt temple; the other references in Revelation to the temple speak of the temple in heaven, but here the context is clearly an earthly temple in Jerusalem. "Given to the nations" parallels "the times of the Gentiles," Luke 21:24. 42 months: the early Jewish calendar used 360-day years, apparently the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. This dovetails with Dan. 9:27 which tells of the seven-year covenant that will be broken in the middle of the seven (3 1/2 years), when the abomination of desolation takes place in the temple. The temple is rebuilt in the first 3 1/2 years. Plans are already under way for this rebuilding, and much has been done in advance to expedite it. The holy city would be Jerusalem, as mentioned in Dan. 9:24--already a source of great contention, but even more so at that time. Israel still will not have complete control of the city.
11:3, then a 3 1/2 year period is designated as 1260 days (rather than 42 months, as in 2); this appears to reference the first 3 1/2 years of the tribulation. Apparently they appear immediately at the beginning of the tribulation, and contribute to the great number of conversions, perhaps even of the 144,000. 6-7, these two witnesses will bring many plagues upon the earth before they are killed--the second woe, 14. (Apparently the first two woes take place over the same period of time.)
11:7, "the beast that come up out of the abyss" speaks of the beast (the Antichrist) that will be introduced in Rev. 13. This passage suggests that he may not be merely satanically inspired, controlled or indwelt, but demonic in origin. Perhaps, in imitation of Christ, he will be both man and some other type being. We looked at other reasons for this possibility back in our discussion of the beginning of Mat. 24.
11:9, their bodies will be watched for three and a half days by "peoples and tribes and tongues and nations," apparently on live satellite news. Again we have two references to the earth-dwellers in 10. The world will watch as God brings them back to life and they ascend to heaven. Following a great destructive earthquake, some actually give glory to God.
11:15, man's kingdom is in the process of being replaced by God's kingdom--the kingdom of the Messiah, promised and prophesied throughout the Old Testament. 15, 17 and 18 speak of future events as though they have already taken place; this speaks of God being eternal, outside the constraints of past, present, and future. 16, those in heaven "worship"--the parallel phrase is "fell on their faces." These parallel ideas are found throughout the Bible; worship is not singing, but personally yielding and serving. 18 summarizes what will take place. The ark of the covenant may indeed be now located in heaven, or it may be a heavenly version of which the physical ark is merely a copy, see Heb. 8:4-5.
Rev. 12 looks at this time period in the context of several important personalities. Gen. 37:9 identifies the woman, 12:1, who is with child (Jesus), as Israel. The woman can't be the church because the church is the bride of Christ, not the mother. The dragon, 3, is identified for us in 12:9 as Satan. His seven heads and ten horns will be discussed further in later chapters. Compare Dan. 7:7, 20, 24; the fourth beast is a fourth great kingdom having 10 horns/kings. Then another horn/king will be the one spoken of in Dan. 9-12 and Revelation; in connection with him, 7:25 talks about a 3 1/2 year period (a time = a year; times = 2 years; half a time = half a year).
Rev. 12:4, 1/3 of Satan's angels (stars) are thrown down to earth; while God remains ever in sovereign control over all that happens, He has allowed Satan temporary control over this earth. Jesus called him "the ruler of this world," John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11. As prophesied in Gen. 3:15, Satan has been against the Messiah from the beginning, in the Old Testament trying to destroy the line that would lead to His birth, in the Gospels trying to destroy Him and His mission and discredit the church--the body of Christ.
12:5, the male child who will rule with a "rod of iron" is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Psa. 2:9. Acts 1:9 tells how Jesus was "lifted up" to heaven; Rev. 12:5 uses the term "caught up," the same term used in Acts 8:39, II Cor. 12:4, and significantly, I Thes. 4:17. In these first few verses of Rev. 12, we are told of the spiritual warfare that has been going on between God and Satan through the ages, and throughout the Bible.
Now, at this point in the story of the endtimes, Israel flees in the face of intense persecution, during the second 3 1/2 years; compare Mt. 24:15-21, following the abomination of desolation, which takes place at the midpoint of the seven years. At this point, there is war in heaven; the archangel Michael and his angels fight against Satan and his angels/demons. God's power is stronger; compare I John 4:4. Even after Satan's original rebellion, he still had access to heaven, as we read in Job 1-2. But at the mid-point of the tribulation, he is thrown out of heaven. He and his demons are now found on the earth, and literally, all hell breaks loose.
We learn more about Satan in 10-12; he accuses believers before God continually. We see that God is the judge, Satan is the prosecuting attorney, we are on the stand, and Jesus is our Defender. His blood covers all our guilt and sin. Many believers at that time, when faced with death, will not "love their life" enough to cause them to deny their Savior. 12, here we read of heaven-dwellers as opposed to the earth-dwellers that are the object of God's wrath. Satan's wrath is against God and His followers, and because he knows his time is limited. Satan has access to the Bible too, but his understanding is darkened like all unbelievers, so he doesn't understand or accept what it says.
While the citizens of heaven can rejoice, the earth-dwellers are in for great woe--the third woe. At this mid-point in the tribulation, the really bad stuff begins. Satan goes on the attack against Israel (the woman), 13; now is when the greatest time of persecution starts. Compare Mat. 24:15-21. Israel receives help as she flees, 14, many think to Petra. She hides for 3 1/2 years (a time = 1 year, times = 2 years, half a time = half a year), the last 3 1/2 years of the great tribulation. 15-16, it's not hard to imagine armies being swallowed by a sinkhole, similar to Korah's rebellion. Compare Is. 8:7-8. 17, satanic rage will be unleashed upon Jews worldwide. Jews and Christians will face great danger.
In Rev. 13, two more important personalities are introduced--the beast and the false prophet. "Beast" is a term often used to refer to angels, Rev. 4:6-9, Rev. 6 and other passages. (Strong's: living thing, animal, creature.) The Antichrist is referred to as a beast, 13:1, but with a slightly different term (Strong's: wild, dangerous, venomous creature). The implication is possibly an angelic/demonic creature or some sort of clone or human/demonic hybrid. This person is referred to by many names in the Bible, including man of sin, man of lawlessness, antichrist, the prince who is to come, the king of fierce countenance, the one who comes in his own name, etc.
The description of the beast in 13:1-2 contains many references to Daniel. "Beast" sometimes refers to the man and sometimes to his kingdom. He obviously isn't a man with many literal heads and horns, physically resembling many animals. All these terms are used symbolically, and explained to a certain extent, in Dan. 7; the leopard, bear and lion in Dan. 7:4-6 appear to be nations or coalitions that are in power in the endtimes. The sea/isles/coastlands often refer to the Gentiles, so many think 13:1 means that the beast will be a Gentile, not a Jew. Horns refer to power in many Old Testament passages (Zech. 1:21). Heads/horns/diadems all seem to refer to nations and/or kings. Apparently the kingdom of the beast will be made up of a conglomerate of nations, 1. He and his kingdom have characteristics of the various world powers of the past, 2 (compare Dan. 7:3-6, 15-17).
3, perhaps one of the kings dies or appears to die, then miraculously comes to life or appears to. Or perhaps one of the nations goes belly-up, then makes a miraculous recovery. Perhaps the beast himself is slain and comes back to life, in imitation of Christ. Perhaps some modern technology creates a deception here. Whatever happens is so amazing that it results in his worship. Compare Mat. 24:24. "Whole earth," 3--he is a world ruler, or at least has world-wide influence; there may be a one-world government. Apparently it is understood that his power is satanic, 4, and Satan is worshipped by the peoples. They also worship the beast. Here again it is obvious that "worship" doesn't mean singing or the song service but means to serve/bow down/yield to someone or something.
He is characterized by arrogance and blasphemy (speaking against God), as we read often in Daniel. Since his absolute authority is apparently limited to a period of 3 1/2 years (42 months), this appears to be the last half of the tribulation. II Thes. 2:6-8 tells us that he is revealed after the church is caught up and removed (the restrainer being the indwelling Holy Spirit); Dan. 9:27 tells us that the seven years of tribulation is counted from the time he signs the covenant, so he must appear on the world scene at that time. Apparently his absolute and satanic world rule isn't solidified until the mid-point of the seven years; when he signs the seven-year covenant, he is not yet the world ruler. 6 mentions "those who dwell in heaven" in contrast with the oft-repeated phrase, "those who dwell on the earth." "Tabernacle" means "habitation."
He engages in warfare, 7, with the saints-Christians-and overcomes them. These saints can't be the church; compare Mat. 16:18. In Rev. 1-3 we read numerous times of the church. Now we read of saints, but they are no longer called the church, because the church has been removed and caught up to heaven. We do not read of the church again until Rev. 19:7-9 (the bride's marriage to the Lamb). Some claim that the church IS found throughout Revelation, because we read of saints (believers). Not all believers are part of the church. The church is a particular group of believers--from Pentecost to the rapture. Here we read of those who believe during the tribulation--after the church has been caught up. Although the Holy Spirit is no longer indwelling believers (as He did the church), He is still omnipresent and active on earth, as He was before the church age.
13:7, the world-wide authority of the beast is stressed in. 8, all unbelievers will worship him. Now we learn an interesting fact about this group often referred to as "those who dwell upon the earth": their names are not written in the book of life. (Note: NASB words it as "has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." KJV words it as "not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Each version has a different connotation.) Other references to the book of life speak of not being blotted out of the book; believers cannot lose their salvation, so "blotted out" can't mean that. Many believe it means that everyone's name is recorded in the book at birth, and those who reject Christ are blotted out, probably at death. These choose to worship the beast; by taking his mark, they have made an irreversible choice, and their names are apparently removed at that time from the book of life. There is no more possibility for repentance for them. This reminds us of the unpardonable sin that Jesus spoke of, committed by those who had seen the miracles that attested to the fact He was God, yet attributed by them to the working of Satan, Mat. 12:22-32.
9 reminds us that the church is no longer on the earth; the statement, "if anyone has an ear, let him hear," was repeated several times in the letters to the churches, Rev. 2-3, but always ending with "what the Spirit says to the churches." That ending is conspicuously absent now. They are still to hear with the Spirit is saying, but the Spirit is no longer saying it to the church because the church is gone. 10 could be restating the biblical principal of sowing and reaping; those who are engaged in capturing and killing will experience God's judgment. Or it could be saying that, in spite of being destined for captivity and death, the saints must endure in their faith.
13:11, there is another beast--again, the word means a wild, dangerous venomous beast, so possibly another demonic-type person. This beast comes not from the sea but from the earth; some think this means he will be not a Gentile but a Jew. He looks like a lamb but speaks like Satan. He is identified in 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10 as the false prophet. Satan impersonates God, the beast impersonates the Son, and the false prophet impersonates the Holy Spirit: the false trinity. Notice the three references in 12-15 to "those who dwell on the earth" and to the fact that he demands and will receive worship as a deity. Again, this is not talking about all humans alive on the earth, but those of the world system: unbelievers. 15, he either has supernatural demonic power, or uses deceptive technology to give breath to the image, or to appear to (clone, robot, hologram, etc.).
13:12 tells more about what he does. Compare warnings in Mat. 24:11; he will be one of many false prophets, but he will be the chief one. Many forms of demonic false prophecy are widely known and accepted by many today: channeled spirit guides, ascended masters, the enlightened ones, even the demons who give false messages under the deceitful names "Jesus" and "Mary." 13, signs and wonders do not always come from the hand of God, but may be of Satan.
13:16-18, he will mandate that all must take a mark on the hand or forehead if they wish to buy or sell. All who take the mark agree to worship him; 14:9-11, all who take the mark will suffer God’s wrath and eternal punishment. None who take it can change their minds later. We know God desires all to be saved--why would He not allow this one group of people to repent and be saved? This is said of no one else in the Bible; something is different with this group of people. Apparently taking the mark permanently changes the individual in some way that makes them ineligible for eternal life. This can be demonstrated by looking at Gen. 6. Jesus likens the endtimes destruction of mankind to the destruction of man in Noah's day in the worldwide flood, Mat. 24:37-38, Luke 17:26-27. We read of how wicked angels married women and gave birth to unnatural offspring, who corrupted all mankind, so that God had to destroy them all, saving only Noah and his family.
Many Christians worry a great deal about whether we are already in the tribulation, whether the mark is already in use, whether they may have inadvertently taken it, or whether a presently known person may be the beast. All of these concerns come from not taking the literal interpretation of the Bible and from not recognizing that Israel and the church are two separate entities in God's plan. A normal, literal reading of Scripture shows the church being caught up first, THEN the revealing of the beast and the beginning of the seven years of tribulation--a known period marked by the signing of the covenant and ending seven years later when Christ visibly returns to reign. The mark cannot be taken today because the church is still here and the beast has not been revealed. Even in the great tribulation, the mark cannot be taken inadvertently because Rev. 13 makes it clear that the beast's satanic identity is known and he is consciously, knowingly worshipped by those who choose to take his mark.
14:1-4, we see the 144,000 of Rev. 7. We see now that the seal was the identity of the true God. It's unclear if John sees them in the future kingdom with Christ on Mt. Zion, or if he sees them in heaven; Heb. 12:22 speaks of Mount Zion as symbolic of heaven. Perhaps the time of ministry for which they were sealed is now over and they have been either martyred or caught up to heaven at this point. 5, they are not sinless (compare Job 1:1) but their behavior is exemplary. Not defiled with women; marriage is not defilement, so perhaps, as in the past, ritual sex is part of the "religion" going on. They are guilty of no lie/guile/deceit; might this refer to the lie spoken of in II Thes. 2:11? The lie about the identity of the beast? Or about what really happened at the rapture? Or they have held out against some great deception?
14:6-7, an angel preaches the gospel to the unbelievers, the earth-dwellers, of all nations. Compare Mat. 24:14; this must take place during the tribulation before the end can come. None will be able to say at the judgment, "I didn't know." They know the truth; they reject it. The angel identifies God as Creator, clearly distinguishing Him from the beast who is claiming to be God. 8, a second angel speaks in past tense of the fall of Babylon, which we read of in Rev. 16-18; God hates and will judge the worship of commercialism/materialism. Chapters 14-18 seem to be the final events which probably happen rather rapidly.
14:9-11, a third angel also has a message. He again makes it clear that those who take the beast's mark actually worship the beast; none will accidentally take the mark. All who take the mark will experience God's wrath on earth AND will experience eternal fire and brimstone--the lake of fire. Taking the mark permanently seals their fate; none who take the mark can repent or be redeemed. 12, because of the seriousness of the mark, the saints are reminded to persevere in their faith and obedience. 13 mentions a blessing for believers who die from this point on; conditions will be so awful that believers who endure and hold onto their faith at this point will be specially rewarded.
14:14-20, Christ has a sickle and reaps, "like a son of man," Rev. 1:13. Another angel also reaps; harvest speaks of judgment. Again it appears that we are about to see the final events of the seven years. Another angel appears with a sickle; he is also told to reap, by the angel who has the power over fire. The first reaping is "over the earth"; the second is "from the vine of the earth." Perhaps earth refers to Israel and the vine of earth to the nations, considering similar Bible symbolism. Remember that God's activities in the tribulation period are directed to two main groups: the wicked (earth-dwellers) and Israel. Again we wonder if events follow in the order John gives them, with 20 being some specific event taking place before the events of the next chapters. Or perhaps here he gives the overview of what he is about to show in the next four chapters, with the bloody scene of 20 being the final battle at Armageddon. We see that angels are very active during the seven years of tribulation, just as we see major demonic and satanic activity. The unseen spiritual warfare that has been going on for ages is being played out on earth.
15:1, seven more angels; these final seven plagues will finish the wrath of God. 2, we see in heaven, those who were victorious over the beast. They were not those who escaped him or defeated him, but rather those who did not yield to him. By accepting death rather than worshiping him, they were victorious; this biblical idea of being victorious has interesting implications for our lives. 3, God is called the king of the nations; 4, the nations will come and worship before Him (serve Him). Shortly Jesus Christ will return to claim His earthly kingdom and rule over all the nations of earth.
In Rev. 16:1-11, the first five bowls of wrath are poured out. Those with the mark break out with malignant, loathsome sores; it's not hard to imagine an infection or reaction where the mark has been applied, or perhaps God supernaturally afflicts them. Something happens to the sea, then to fresh waters; 5-6 reminds us of the universal law of sowing and reaping. Something causes the heat of the sun to become unbearable. The throne and kingdom of the beast are targeted. None of these plagues result in repentance.
16:12-16, the sixth angel causes the Euphrates River to dry up so the kings from the East can come, part of the great gathering of world powers at Armageddon for the war against God, 14. Three frog-like demons come from the mouths of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. (Interesting note, if "aliens" are indeed demons: those who "believe in aliens" describe one type as frog-like.) We see major activity on earth by both angels and demons, surely in ways we cannot imagine, even though movies spark our imagination.
16:17-21, "It is done" when the seventh and final angel pours out his bowl; compare Eph. 2:2. The greatest earthquake in the earth's history destroys not just the great city, but the cities of the nations. Why would God target cities? Compare Isa. 23-27 (see my notes on those chapters). This fits with what we will read in Rev. 18. The movement of every island and mountain, 16:20, could be literal or symbolic, or both. This massive earth movement could well create this type of tectonic chaos; as well, the Bible often uses mountains as symbols of power, and islands/isles/coastlands often refer to the Gentile nations. Imagine the great destruction on earth and the loss of life implied in these verses as the tribulation draws to a close, Mat. 24:22. The end of Rev. 16 tells of the destruction of Babylon the great; 17 and 18 give a more detailed account.
Rev. 17:1-7. In contrast to the woman of 12:1, we now meet another woman: she who was called Babylon the great in Rev. 14:8 is now called the great harlot and the mother of harlots. Her acts of immorality were committed with the kings of the earth and with "those who dwell on the earth." She is drunk with the blood of the saints (martyrs) and the witnesses; she is the enemy of Jesus-followers. We are told of her relationship with the beast with seven heads and ten horns, 12:3, 13:1, Dan. 7:7,20,24.
Her clothing depicts her as having wealth and power. She is carried by a scarlet beast; we have read of two beasts but they were not described as scarlet before. Scarlet in the Old Testament was associated with the tabernacle and the priests' clothing; in Rev. 18:12,16 it seems to be associated with luxurious wealth. In Rev. 3:14-22 we read of the final apostate form of the church, the empty institution of religion with Christ standing outside the door, 3:20. This church is wealthy, 3:17. The picture is quite similar to the wealthy harlot of Rev. 17, in bed with big government.
Note the significance of Babylon in the Bible. The first mention of Babylon is in Gen. 10:10 when Nimrod founded his kingdom, Babel; some see Nimrod as a type of the beast. Babel, the first kingdom mentioned in the Bible, was founded in direct opposition to God's command to Noah's family after the flood to fill the earth, Gen. 9:1. Instead, Nimrod and his followers settled in the land of Shinar in the east, Gen. 11:2; here we have the beginning of the godless world system with what apparently is a ziggurat--a religious, astronomical observatory, where human sacrifices were offered. The humanistic, godless world system--represented by Babylon--is synonymous with both corrupt commercialism and false religion; in Rev. 17 and 18 we see God's judgment on both.
The angel explains the beast to John, 8-18; the beast "was, is not, and is about to come." It comes up out of the abyss; there is a demonic connection. It will go to "destruction"; God will judge this kingdom and its ruler, and God will be victorious over it. Daniel gives more information that helps us interpret this strange phrase as referring to an endtimes revived Roman Empire. Earth-dwellers (here defined for us as unbelievers) will wonder at, marvel at, and admire this world ruler and his global kingdom. It's interesting that New Ager's and many of the world's elite are looking for and imminently expecting a new age, the "age of Aquarius," to be ushered in, when mankind will supposedly make an evolutionary leap and the world will experience a golden age. They will think this is it and will embrace this king/kingdom.
Some think the seven mountains are the seven hills of Rome and that the woman is the Catholic Church. However, the Bible also speaks symbolically of mountains as nations or powers; 17:10 tells us they are seven kings. The ten horns are ten kings, under the beast. This kingdom will not last long, 12; the tribulation is only seven years. This coalition under the beast will attempt to come together in war against the Lamb but will lose; we will read more of that in Rev. 19.
The angel further explains, 15-18, that the waters of 17:1 are symbolic of the nations of the world--the Gentiles. The beast and his coalition will turn against the harlot. The harlot is the great city; some think the "great city" is a literal rebuilt city of Babylon. It could be symbolic of the role of cities in general, as the seat of the world's corrupt commercial system that God hates, compare Isa. 23-27. It could involve both.
We can try to get the main idea of what is happening in this chapter, but it is impossible to know ahead of time exactly what is meant. The important thing WE need to know is in 17:17. Everything that is happening is fitting into God's plan and purpose. We are again reminded of the dual mysterious truths of our free will AND God's sovereignty. They will do what they want to do, of their own free will, BUT God has put it into their hearts to do it. God doesn't force people to act against their own desires; He always offers them a choice, but sets things up to bring out what is in their hearts. The words of God will be fulfilled, 17. All that will happen has been prophesied, in both the Old and New Testaments. Fulfilled prophecy is one of the greatest proofs for who God is, and for the truth of the Bible.
Rev. 18 continues the account of judgment on Babylon the great, but now the emphasis is economic. 1-3, again we are told of her immoral relationship with not only the kings of the earth, but also the merchants. We read of riches, wealth, luxury and power. There appears to be an alliance between the kings and the merchants--between government/politics and big business. The Old Testament confirms that God hates the corrupt commercialism of the world system, Eze. 27-28, and that this will NOT characterize His kingdom when it comes. "Sensuality" implies that which appeals to the senses, to our desires. Today's society is geared toward fulfilling Self--it's all about "me," what I want, what will make me feel good, instant gratification. This is the exact opposite of what the Bible says; our lives are to be all about God, not Self. Humility, the mark of the Christian, is the opposite of greed and pride.
God's people are warned to "come out of her," 4-6. This could be both symbolic and literal--a possible literal re-built city of Babylon, or Babylon as referring to cities, or referring to the corrupt world system (participating in the system at that time will involve taking the mark). Compare 7-8 with Isa. 47, Zeph. 2:15. She arrogantly assumes that nothing can ever bring her down. The kings weep and lament over her destruction, 9-10.
18:11-24 detail the weeping and mourning of the merchants of the earth--the business world, the economic system--because no one is buying anymore. Expensive luxury items are mentioned, and those who are made rich by her. One wonders if this section is talking about a global stock market crash, if Babylon is symbolic of the world system. Or if Babylon is a literal re-built city, and is the seat of the Antichrist and his global economy, perhaps something happens to this city that has disastrous consequences for the merchants of the earth. Whatever happens, happens suddenly and instantly, "in one hour," and involves violence, 21. Deception is involved, 23, and sorcery (the Greek word could imply drugs--legal or illegal). 24, this Babylon is responsible for martyred saints. Again, Babylon could be literal, symbolic, or both. The final statement is about her connection with religious persecution throughout time. Babylon, the great harlot, has been Satan's tool all along--the corrupt world system of government, business and false religion. God destroys this system and will replace it with the righteous kingdom of the Messiah.
It is truly amazing to read the Bible and find how the same truths and even similar symbolic language are found in both the Old and New Testaments. Compare the New Testament description of these end time events of God's judgment to some of these Old Testament references: Gen. 3:15, Num. 24:19, Ps. 75, Is. 23-26, 28:15-22, 34:1-15, 47, Jer. 25:30-38, 30, Dan. 2,7-12, Hos. 9:10, 10:1, 13:7-8, Joel 1:7,12, 2:1-11,30-32, 3:1-2,11-17, 5:18-20, Obadiah 1, Micah 1:2-4,4:9-13, 7:1, Nahum 1:1-8, Hab. 3:1-16, Zeph. 1-3, Zech. 1,2,5,6,12, 13:7-9, 14. Notice the frequent use of the term "that day," often an Old Testament reference to the day of the Lord--the period beginning with the seven years of tribulation and extending through the 1000-year kingdom of the Messiah on earth. Some of these passages refer to events that already have taken place in Israel's past, but many Old Testament prophecies have in view both a partial, near-term fulfillment AND a future, complete fulfillment.
19:1 begins with another time transition, "after these things." Now John's vision moves on to the final event of the great tribulation--the second coming of Christ. 2, the previous events have been God's judgment and vengeance. Everything God does is true and righteous; we can trust Him whether we understand or not. God is worshiped in heaven by the church (represented by the 24 elders) and the angels, 4-6. Again we see the parallel use of worship/fall down. God reigns now; man's reign is over. We see the response in heaven to this event.
In contrast to the woman of 12:1, and the harlot of 17 and 18, one more woman is introduced in 7--the pure virgin bride of Christ. The church has not been present on earth during the seven years of tribulation; now the marriage takes place in heaven. Besides the bride and bridegroom, others will be present as guests at the marriage supper, 9, to take place on earth. Jesus told the Laodicean church that if any would open the door to Him, they would dine with Him (at the marriage supper), at the inauguration of the kingdom. For a discussion of the wedding and the marriage supper, click here, and for information on Jewish marriage customs, click here.
More on the true meaning of worship, 10--to fall down before someone. Angels are assigned to be servants of believers. We see that prophecy is about Jesus; it all points to Jesus. Jesus is the central theme of the Old Testament as well as the New.
11-16, Christ returns to earth at the end of the seven years of tribulation; He returns in victory and righteousness--Faithful, True, The Word of God. He is accompanied by armies of angels--the heavenly host, as angels are so often called in the Bible. Some think the army is the church; that doesn't fit the role of the bride, but the bride does return with Him, so perhaps it includes both. The sword that comes from His mouth is His Word, the Word of God, John 1:1, Heb. 4:12. He will now rule the nations with a rod of iron, Ps. 2:9. The Old Testament spoke of the Messiah who would come and trample them in His wrath in garments sprinkled with blood, Is. 63:1-6.
Birds that eat flesh are divinely assembled for a great bloody feast, 17. It's interesting how many times the word "flesh" is used in 18; the Bible has a great deal to say about the flesh. The flesh is sinful, hostile toward God and cannot please God. Rom. 7:14,18, 8:1-13. Now the flesh is judged. At any rate, there is going to be a great deal of death at the battle of Armageddon.
The beast and the kings of many nations have gathered for battle against Christ and His army, 19-21. The beast and false prophet are thrown alive into the lake of fire. So far they are the only ones there. No one else will join them until the end of the millenial kingdom, when the Great White Throne judgment takes place. All that time, they will still be in there, alive. Meanwhile, all the earth's armies that are gathered are killed by the sword of His mouth. Zep. 3:11, Zec. 14:12-15, Isa. 21:19-23, Psa. 58:10-11, Psa. 76.
Rev. 20, now we read of the events following the second coming of Christ. Another angel, in a series of many angels that have played a part in the endtimes events, appears, having enough authority to bind Satan himself and throw him into the abyss for 1000 years, 1-2. Why would God do this, then let him out again briefly? During the 1000-year kingdom, Christ will be physically and visibly ruling on the earth; mankind will be tested under a new set of conditions (dispensations). The Bible is the story of how, after man rebelled, God has been proving that no matter what circumstances he is placed in, man is sinful and without hope, totally dependent on God's grace and mercy. Man cannot be good enough to earn eternal life, no matter what advantages God gives him. This concept is called "dispensationalism."
First God placed man in a perfect environment--the Garden of Eden; man failed the test, chose to sin and required God's offer of salvation. God then placed man in various circumstances: the rule of his own conscience, the age of human government following the flood, the Law, grace (indwelt by the Holy Spirit). Now the curse will be partially removed, Satan will no longer be able to tempt men, and Christ will be enforcing righteousness on the earth. But at the end of this kingdom age, Satan will be loosed for one final period of temptation, and man will again rebel against God. There are other ways of looking at the dispensations found in the Bible, but their purpose is: God is proving man's need of salvation. No one will be able to say that God has been unfair--"if only He'd done it THIS way..."
Resurrected believers will reign with Christ; sitting on thrones, they apparently rule over nations, cities, etc. This will include the church (translated into their eternal state when they were caught up) and those believers who died during the great tribulation. We know that the Old Testament believers are resurrected at the beginning of the 1000 years so that they can receive and inherit the Old Testament promises of the kingdom. Compare Job 19:25-26, Is. 26:19-21, Ez. 37:12, Dan. 12:13, Hag. 2:21-23, Mat. 8:11, Acts 1:6, 3:21.
20:4 speaks of those who were beheaded for bearing Christ's name, apparently during the great tribulation. This type of death is not common in the modern world except among Muslims. Perhaps Muslims will be major players in the tribulation years.
Again, here is our evidence that MANY will be saved during the seven years of tribulation; missing the rapture does not mean someone cannot be saved. Actually, God's plan of salvation will go on for another 1,000 years, throughout Christ's earthly kingdom. Many Christians today look forward to being caught up, yet at the same time hope it doesn't happen before their unsaved loved ones are saved, because they fear that if they don't believe before then, they will be lost. Rather, what we read in Revelation is that many will be saved during the tribulation, and many of THOSE will be martyred for their faith; they, along with the church, will rule with Christ over the kingdom, in resurrected bodies.
5-6, all believers have now been resurrected. The rest of the dead would be unbelievers. They will be resurrected at the end of the 1000-year reign of Christ. They are not yet in the lake of fire but are in Hades, or in the place of torment that we call hell, but hell is not the final place of torment. This will be clarified at the end of this chapter. 6 again makes it clear that believers have been resurrected and sit in places of authority and leadership, serving as priests as well, Rev. 5:10, Is. 61:6.
The Bible doesn't give us a lot of detail about what our lives will be like following either death or the rapture. We know that we will see Jesus Christ face to face and worship Him. We have seen that worship is not a synonym for singing; many are falsely concerned that an eternity of singing about Jesus doesn't sound all that heavenly. But we also see that God has work for us to do; we saw in the Garden of Eden that He created man with the capacity and desire to work, and He gave man work to do. I don't know what people in heaven are doing NOW, but following the Second Coming, we will be working in His kingdom, which the Bible says is an eternal kingdom.
Knowing this, we gain some insight into life on this present earth. How should we look at our lives, even our problems, in the light of the kingdom that will soon come? How should we look at the troubles that God allows into the lives of our loved ones? What is God doing? Read again Mat. 24:45-47, 25:14-23, Luke 16:10-12, 19:11-19. We see that a study of the endtimes does have great application to our lives today. A better understanding of God's Big Plan helps us to bear up and do our best today. When we watch the news and are tempted to feel anxiety, fear or despair, we can remind ourselves that God's timing is never wrong, that His plan is unfolding, that His coming and His kingdom are just around the corner, that soon this world will be very different. Government and business will no longer be corrupt, war and terrorism will no longer be a problem, because Jesus Christ will be on the throne, and we will be busy about His business, helping Him to oversee and administer everything that goes on. This should have a major impact on our attitude and actions today, as Peter tells us in II Peter 3:9-14.
7-10, now we jump ahead in time to the end of the thousand years. (Details about the kingdom are mostly found in the Old Testament.) At the end of earth's final time period, Satan is released. He doesn't "escape"--he is still under God's sovereign control. You can imagine his fury after being confined in the abyss for 1,000 years. What does he do, that he has always done? We saw in Mat. 24-25 that the kingdom was initially populated by only believers--in their earthly bodies, continuing to reproduce and populate the earth. Many Old Testament prophesies tell us that with the curse partially removed, sickness and death will be rare; long life will be common, as in the beginning, so the earth's population is once again very great. Do the children of believers always choose to believe? It's possible that once again, believers are in the minority. Even though Christ enforces His law, He never forces hearts to choose Him. Ps. 81:15, Phil. 2:9-11, outward recognition and obedience will be required, but not every heart will love and accept Him.
Gog and Magog are also spoken of in Eze. 38 and 39. Many believe that Ezekiel speaks of a war that takes place just before the tribulation, or shortly after it begins (based on the description of the battle and conditions on earth at that time), and that this reference to Gog and Magog in Revelation speaks of another war with the same peoples and nations. Some think Eze. 38-39 speaks of this final battle, not an earlier one.
Others think Gog and Magog are references not to individual people but are titles. Ez. 38:1-2 and 39:1 refer to the "chief prince" (KJV) or the "prince" (NASB--with "chief prince" as a margin note). The only other place "chief prince" is found is Dan. 10:13, speaking of high ranking angels and demons; Dan. 10:20 makes it clear that wicked angels (demons) are also referred to as princes. So perhaps Gog is the demon in charge of certain kingdoms on earth, or behind the rebellions of these kingdoms. If Gog were a man, it seems he would be called a king, not a prince.
Some think Ezekiel's war of Gog and Magog happen at the time the church is raptured, or just after the rapture, that the fire God sends on them, 39:7, is nuclear warfare, that the cleansing of the land and the handling of the dead by a special burial force is due to nuclear contamination, that the burning of weapons for the next seven years, 39:9, will be the burning of the war's oil and gas supplies. We should not assume that it must happen before the rapture, because then we would have to assume that we can't be caught up until this war happens, which nullifies the biblical idea that we are to ready and it could be any moment. If this event happens at the beginning of the seven years of tribulation, it will cause a spiritual awakening in Israel; they would turn to God, or have a renewed awareness that they are God's people, but still do not accept Jesus Christ as their Messiah until He returns at the end of the seven years. We don't know how long after the rapture that the seven-year covenant will be signed, marking the beginning of the seven-year countdown. Most assume the interval will be quite short, but maybe not. There are many possibilities. At any rate, there is a final huge rebellion on earth, against Israel and Jerusalem, Christ's headquarters.
9-10, how does it end? Again we are told that the devil is a deceiver, a very effective one. Satan's deception is one of the main themes of the Bible, introduced in Gen. 3 and culminating here in the final deception. As we read the concluding book of the Bible, we are seeing the major themes of the Bible brought to a conclusion. Some people believe that contrary to what the Bible says, eternal punishment is not really eternal, but that after a period of punishment, the souls of the wicked are annihilated. They believe that eternal punishment would make God cruel and therefore evil. How does 10 address that issue?
11-13, what happens now at the Great White Throne? Keep in mind that we are now at the end of the thousand years. So far only believers, from both the Old and New Testament eras, have been resurrected. Where have the unbelievers been up till now? Hades, or hell, is not the same as the lake of fire. It is where unbelievers go when they die, but it is not the final place of punishment. It is not purgatory, where people can supposedly be "purged" of their sins and "get out," if other people pray for them, burn candles, or whatever. Does the Bible teach that after death, we can change our eternal destiny? Can anyone be saved by what someone else does? Can babies be saved because someone baptized them? Can babies choose faith in Christ?
Are believers judged by their deeds for salvation? Are unbelievers? Why? Unbelievers have chosen not to accept God's free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ who took our punishment in our place. They chose to put their faith instead in themselves and their own good deeds, so now they will be judged by their deeds, as they wished. Will any of them make it? We may not understand how God will judge every person's situation, but we can be assured that God is a RIGHTEOUS JUDGE, Gen. 18:25, and at the judgment day, He will rightly judge the actions and motives of all.
If someone took this passage out of context and didn't compare it to the rest of the Bible, you could get the impression that salvation is based on how good they have been. But can anyone be saved by being good enough? How good do you have to be? What happens to these dead? What happens to everyone who was in Hades? Does it say here or anywhere in the Bible that anyone got out? Since 15 mentions the possibility of names being found in the book of life, perhaps it is referring to believers who died during the Millenium who would probably also be at this final resurrection.
Rev. 21-22 are about heaven. Since our topic is the endtimes events, we will not study heaven and eternity.
Daniel is a fascinating book with many interesting things to learn about besides prophetic events. We are not doing a study of the book so we will try to just focus on prophecy and endtimes events. For a study on the book of Daniel, see my notes on Daniel. Read Dan. 1 to get a background on who Daniel is. Daniel was a young man, possibly a teenager, when he was taken to Babylon in the first wave of the captivity. He served in Babylon under three kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus. By then, he would be an old man.
1-2, the historical setting, going back to when Nebuchadnezzar first besieged Jerusalem. This was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. Nebuchadnezzar's first invasion of Judah took place about a month after his father died and he received the crown. So Nebuchadnezzar's reign virtually begins with this interaction with Israel. These verses don't specifically mention the captives, but mention the articles from the temple being taken to a place of idolatry.
4-7 What were Daniel and his friends like? They were to be given a college education and a special diet. 17-21, they already had certain qualities; God enhanced those qualities even more. These four young men were the best of the best. What a unique opportunity God had given them to be an influence of godliness as they serve in secular positions of power in this pagan kingdom. Will they, like many Christians we see in the news, eventually give in to the temptation to water down their beliefs in order to protect their positions? We will find out in the next few chapters. The Bible tells about how God works in the lives of poor, simple, uneducated nobodies, and how He works in the lives of very intelligent, wise and rich people. No matter who we are, God is working in us and through us, to increase our own faith in Him, to reach whatever type of people He has placed in our path so they may see our faith, observe our lives and perhaps come to the truth.
1 When does this next incident take place? Daniel and his friends apparently are still in training, if they were to be educated for three years, and this is Nebuchadnezzar's second year. Or, it could be that the dreams, or this recurring dream, began in his second year, and some time elapses before verse 2, or the confrontation with the wise men takes place over a period of time. At the conclusion of this incident 48, Daniel is promoted to something like prime minister, so it seems a few years may have passed in the meantime.
In this fascinating story, we learn some very interesting things about Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, and God, but since our purpose is to study endtimes events, we must skip over those and focus on our topic. 28, what time period is referred to? Don't you wonder why God decided to let someone know these things? And why not an Israelite, or a prophet? Why this man? He gives this dream to the Gentile leader of the current world empire. What does this tell us about God? So here we see Daniel functioning as a prophet, revealing God's message, foretelling future events. Why would Nebuchadnezzar believe Daniel's interpretation? Because of the miracle of Daniel telling him what he dreamed. Daniel's long-range message is validated by this miracle in the here-and-now. That is the purpose of miracles--of signs and wonders--to attest to the truth of the message. It was the purpose of the miracles of the Old Testament prophets, of Jesus' miracles, and those of the apostles in Acts.
31-35 The dream; God is revealing Himself to a Gentile, a pagan, and He uses language that this man can relate to. An image, kingdoms, valuable metals; God is not limited in His means of speaking to different kinds of people. Is God revealing spiritual truth to this Gentile, or merely political information? A statue made of different elements; which is the most valuable? The quality diminishes further down the body. 34, what else besides a statue? Did it strike the whole statue? What did the stone become? Which is bigger and greater, a mountain or a statue? 39-40, two later kingdoms, and even later, a fourth kingdom. This kingdom especially interests us because it appears to be in the future; it has not yet been.
40-43 The statue represents four kingdoms, each one a metal; notice the deterioration from gold to silver to bronze to iron, as well as the head being of higher honor than the feet. The final kingdom (toes of iron) is a continuation of the fourth (legs of iron)--still iron but mixed with what? What would the 10 toes indicate? What does this remind us of from Revelation? The final kingdom, in every description in Daniel, is not like the other kingdoms. It is made of two elements. 43 tells us how the two elements will be combined; the seed of men--something having to do with reproduction or descendants. However, if this kingdom is the kingdom of the beast, described elsewhere in Daniel and Revelation, it will only last seven years, so seed can't be referring to their descendants. Rev. 13 describes the leader of this final kingdom.
The four kingdoms, each of which ruled the civilized world at that time, are not identified here by name, but we know the first is Babylon--Nebuchadnezzar's own kingdom. Elsewhere in Daniel, the next two are identified by name, as Media-Persia, and Greece. The fourth and final world kingdom is the Roman empire. The iron legs continue into the iron toes. Why two legs? The Roman empire divided between the east and the west. Was the Roman Empire conquered and destroyed? No. So in some way, it will be part of the final kingdom (the 10 toes). This is why we call this future kingdom "the revived Roman empire." History tells us of these four great kingdoms or empires. There are no kingdoms mentioned between the Roman empire and the 10 toes/10 kings. So we are living in that in-between period. This fourth kingdom is focused on a lot in Daniel and in Revelation. Amazingly, many Christians teach that we shouldn't think or study about this fourth kingdom that the Bible talks so much about.
44-45 The Bible often uses the symbol of the stone or rock for what? Psalm 18:1. We have seen that the Bible often uses the symbols of trees for kingdoms, Jud. 9:7-15, Eze. 31; mountains are also used as symbols for kingdoms. When does God's kingdom come? In the days of the 10 kings (toes being nations or kings). What event brings in the kingdom of God? So Daniel is saying that Christ returns in the days of the 10 kings. 44, what is this kingdom like? The final one: eternal. Elsewhere in the Bible, we are told many times that the Messiah will bring in God's kingdom. The Messiah, the stone, grows to a mountain, to God's all-encompassing, everlasting kingdom. Rev. 19 tells how the stone struck the statue and crushed it.
48-49 What happened because of this incident? Daniel is now the prime minister and his three friends are now quite high in government. This sets up the background for Dan. 3, which we are going to skip over. (This chapter is key to understanding the biblical concept of worship--what it really is, not what it is in the church today.) We will also skip over Dan. 4, which is about how King Nebuchadnezzar was humbled for seven years, living as an animal; Dan. 5, Belshazzar and the writing on the wall; and Dan. 6, Daniel in the lions' den.
Daniel 7: Daniel's first vision
This begins the second section of the book of Daniel. The first six chapters are historical, dealing with incidents, and with how God was dealing with Gentile kings. The second section is prophetic. The prophetic elements in the first section were prophecies given to Gentile kings, who came to Daniel for their explanation. These next prophecies are given to Daniel himself, at different times in his life. But he has grouped them together in this section of his writings. Read the whole chapter first for context.
2-14 is the dream, 17-27 is the interpretation; we don't have to wonder what it means. 4-6 mentions three beasts--a lion, a bear and a leopard. Does he actually see creatures? "Like" (resembling) is a key word in symbolic passages. The creatures represent four great kings or kingdoms. Many older commentaries equate the lion, bear and leopard with the gold, silver and bronze of the statue in Dan. 2: Babylon, Media-Persia, and Greece. There may be some parallels and this may not be entirely wrong; we have often seen how Scripture can support several different interpretations that can each be true. However, in 7 these creatures represent powers that are active at the same time as the fourth beast. If the "great sea" represents the nations of the world, what might be happening in 2-3?
4 Many believe the United States is not mentioned in Bible prophecy. If it is, however, this is perhaps the only place it might be alluded to. The British Empire has always been represented by the lion; it is on the coat of arms. The U.S. is represented by the eagle and originated from Britain. The British and Americans have always been allies; here they are pictured together. Perhaps the lion's wings being plucked refers to the birth of the U.S., or perhaps to the plucking of power from the U.S. in the near future. The lion is given man-like qualities; perhaps this means it stands for human rights. The British Empire gave way to the U.S. as super-power, but a power shift is coming, in the next few verses. However, this may not be the correct interpretation of these verses, and the U.S. may not be pictured here at all. Other powerful nations have also been represented by the lion and the eagle.
5 The bear has always represented Russia; Russia is coming back into power soon. The interpretation of the three ribs is unclear, but it devours. 6, various interpretations are that the leopard could represent the European Union, a coalition of eastern nations (China, Japan, India, Indonesia), or a coalition of Arab/Muslim nations.
7 The fourth beast is not like any known animal; nothing like it has ever been seen. How is it described? We see iron teeth; the statue in Dan. 2 had iron legs with toes of iron and clay. We saw that iron seemed to represent the Roman Empire, or the coming revived Roman Empire. As in Dan. 2, it devours, crushes and tramples the remainder--the other three beasts, or the remaining nations of the world. It is "different" in some unexplained way from all the other kingdoms before it. It has ten horns which parallel the idea the statue's ten toes. Again we see that the fourth kingdom is given the most attention.
8 Now we are given information about the one who will rule that fourth kingdom. This person is also talked about in Eze. 28, Revelation and II Thes. 2. Something is different about his eyes; they are "like" the eyes of a man. Apparently his eyes will distinguish him. His mouth is also mentioned, and he will be known for great claims and blasphemies.
Now let's go back and reread some passages in Revelation where the beast is described. 12:3, here the dragon (Satan) is described as having the seven heads and ten horns at this time. 13:1-2, seven heads, ten horns. Daniel mentions ten heads and three fall; 10 - 3 = 7. The beast of Revelation has characteristics of all the three beasts of Dan. 7. What role does the dragon play? We are starting to get a pretty good picture of this final kingdom and its ruler. Now reread Rev. 17.
9-10 Who is pictured here? Note the word "like" again. We also read about the wheels around or under God's throne in Eze. 1, representing the cherabim around the throne. Thousands and myriads of angels; court, books--the time period is the day of judgment.
11 The beast is now referred to as a person, with a body; what burning fire is referred to here? Compare Rev. 19:20. So the term "beast" is used here and in Revelation to refer to both that kingdom and its leader.
12 The others lived for a short time after; perhaps they were conquered but continued to be separate powers. Or perhaps it is saying that they were subjugated by the beast, but would continue to exist as nations in the millenial kingdom, or for only a while during the millenium.
13-14 More about God's role at this time. We see Christ, and His kingdom on earth. Will this kingdom just last for 1000 years? It goes on for how long? Remember there will be a new earth, Rev. 21:1. Compare Rev. 21, the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city, especially 21:24.
15-16 What is Daniel's reaction to this vision? Whatever he saw was terrifying to him. He knew of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and he knew that God had promised Israel a kingdom that would rule over the world and a Messiah to rule that kingdom. He has probably been wondering how this will all work out. He must have figured out that Israel is not going to receive that kingdom following the captivity; other world kingdoms must come first. Was Daniel, the interpreter of dreams, able to interpret this vision? So if we have trouble understanding it too, that is OK. The rest of this chapter is the angel's explanation, interpreting the vision to Daniel.
17-18 What do the beasts picture? The saints/holy ones/Israel finally receive their promised kingdom, promised throughout the Old Testament through God's prophets. Perhaps as Daniel saw the end of the 70-year captivity approaching, he had been wondering about the kingdom, if now they would receive what God had promised. So this vision is about how and when that promised kingdom will come to Israel. Certain things have to happen first, he finds out. Is this prophecy only about Israel and the kingdom, or does it have to do with us too? These two verses are a brief summary of the vision and its interpretation; here is this chapter in a nutshell. If we can't understand anything else from this chapter, we can understand this--God's plan for the future. Understanding this, how should we feel?
Saints/holy ones: here is where the literal interpretation makes a difference. Those who believe Israel and the church are just one group--the same in God's plan--see the church here too. They see the church as being given the kingdom and all the promises of the Mosaic Law--but for some reason, we are exempt from the curses, sacrifices, rituals, and stonings. Since they don't take the Bible literally, they don't necessarily believe that each individual word has a specific meaning; they do not distinguish between the various terms the Bible uses to describe believers. The following terms refer specifically to Christians and are used only in New Testament: church, in Christ, Christ's body, indwelt by the Spirit, the bride. Before the cross, those terms were not used, nor are they used following the rapture. "Saints" are referred to in the Old Testament, New Testament, and tribulation; "saints" refers to believers. Here they cannot be the church because Daniel does not speak of the church at all, nor do we find the church anywhere in the Old Testament; he speaks about Israel. These saints are believing, righteous Jews. Another group that has misunderstood the term "saints" is the Catholic church, teaching that saints are special Christians who are on a higher plane than other Christians, who performed miracles, and who are to be prayed to in heaven.
19-22 Like us, Daniel wants to know more about this fourth kingdom. Again we are told it is "different" in some unexplained way; it is more vicious and destructive than all the earlier ones. Like us, he wants to know more about the ten horns and that one horn in particular. In 7:8 he describes it as a little horn, but here he says it is larger in appearance than the other horns; KJV says "whose look was more stout than his fellows." Strong's also gives these terms: captain, chief, great, lord, master. Some think eyes are thought to refer to his knowledge or intelligence; this could be describing the man himself, or the capabilities of his kingdom (think about how the computer, satellites, and implantable chips could be used to track us and everything we do).
Or there could be something unique about his eyes--similar to human eyes but different. He is described here and elsewhere as boastful, arrogant, blasphemous. Interestingly, there are already known "creatures" that fit this description--demonic spirits or fallen angels that currently masquerade as "aliens." Many Christians think they could play a big part in the end times scenario. In Mat. 24:5, Jesus tells His disciples, inquiring about the end of the age, that the first thing that will happen is that "many will come in My name, saying, 'I am Christ.'" Could the beast be an "alien" or a "hybrid" (alien/human), or might "aliens" accompany him?
Unbelievers generally think "aliens" are from elsewhere in the universe and are highly evolved beings desiring to unselfishly help earth's inhabitants evolve to a higher form of humanity, and that they bring knowledge of higher technology. But their message contradicts the Bible, and parallels New Age beliefs such as: we are all one, "god" is in all of us and in everything, and we are also becoming god-like. They specifically deny the Jesus of the Bible; what was Satan's first lie, Gen. 3:1-5? This is parallel to the New Age belief that we all have access to "the christ" or the "christ-consciousness" within us; however the Bible says Jesus is "the" Christ. They say Jesus was just a good, enlightened man.
These "aliens" speak of a soon-coming time when there is going to be a change or a "shift" of massive proportion, preparing their followers for the deception that will take place when the church is caught up from this earth, creating mass chaos, and opening the door for the revealing of the beast. They say that there are millions of people on earth who are holding back the arrival of the "aliens" and the age of Aquarius in which we supposedly will evolve to a higher state of consciousness--the "fifth dimension." These people are "dark forces" and have "bad vibrations" and must be cleansed from the earth. The "aliens" claim that they will levitate these people up to waiting UFO's and transport them to another place. Will this be the beast's explanation for the disappearance of many people when the church (all true believers) are caught up to meet the Lord in the air? Many people who believe the alien/UFO message are already programmed to believe this.
The Bible says that the Great Tribulation will be characterized by the beast's lying signs and wonders. II Thes. 2:11 speaks of the unbelievers during that time believing "what is false" (NASB), or "the lie" (KJV). Could "the lie" be what they believe about the identity of the beast and the source of his power? Could it be the explanation of what happened to the mass of believers who disappeared? What does John 8:44 say about Satan?
21-22 What does this man, or this kingdom, do? Until when? Christ = God, 13. Bad stuff has to happen before they take possession of their kingdom. Some believe the church will bring in the kingdom and Christ's return, by bringing in more and more of the world until the world is converted; instead, we see that the church has been removed, and that new believers are being persecuted and killed just before Christ returns.
23-25 More details on the fourth kingdom. Again it is emphasized that this kingdom will be "different." KJV: diverse. Strong's: (this word is only used here) altered, changed. The word "different" is emphasized in this chapter; it is said four times. His eyes are mentioned twice. We wonder, in what way will this kingdom be different, altered, or changed from all that came before it? In what way will this man be different/altered/changed from all who came before him? Why are his eyes different? We know from Rev. 13:2 that his power is from Satan himself and that he will be able to exert control over the entire world. His right-hand-man, the false prophet (Rev. 13:11-18, 19:20), will be able to perform wondrous signs. There are only two sources of supernatural power--God and Satan. Satan is the father of lies and deception, John 8:44.
24-26 gives a sort of time line. What appears first? That final kingdom. Then the 10 kings, then the little horn. Then what political move does he make? What does he say about God? How does he treat Christians? What else does he try to do? We don't know what that might mean. Who will be given into his hand? For how long? A time = 1 year, times = 2 years, half a time = half a year. How long is that? Where else have we read about that time period? This would be the last 3 1/2 years of the seven-year tribulation period. Apparently during the first 3 1/2 years, he is a powerful person, but not having total power like he does when he requires people to take the mark (Rev. 13-14). What happens to him at the end of that time? Where did we just read about this court? (7:10) His dominion taken away: Rev. 19:15,19. Destroyed forever: Rev. 19:20. When we see how every detail of the Bible dovetails, how should this make us feel about the Bible? About God?
27 How does it all turn out? Israel finally receives the kingdom promised by God through the Old Testament prophets; they will be the primary nation, Deut. 28:13. During Christ's earthly reign, all the nations of the world will do what? That doesn't mean all will believe and be saved, but they will give outward obedience. Does His kingdom end after the thousand years? It goes on forever. This may be a little different than our ideas about sitting around in heaven for eternity, just singing and praising God. God has work for us all to do, just like His original plan for Adam and Eve was to do the work He gave them to do, in a sinless, ideal environment.
28 As Daniel realized what God's plan was for the future, he was deeply moved. He was even alarmed, as we may be when we first realize that God's plan is not all about fulfilling our selfish desires, but instead revolves around the ultimate spiritual battle between good and evil. Having a grasp of these events changes our whole outlook on life. How seriously do we take God's Word? What do we do with it? Is it something we keep in a compartment--on Sunday morning, or maybe for 15 minutes a day during our "devotions"? Or does our understanding of what God is like and what He is doing in the world have any impact on our thinking--our worldview, our values, our lifestyle, our daily decisions, our family life, our finances, our goals and expectations, how we respond to our trials, how we interact with unbelievers?
Daniel 8: Daniel's second vision
1-4 Daniel records another vision. 2, Susa was the capital of the Median-Persian empire, just east of Babylon. 3-4, what animal? With two what? Like the bear with one side higher--same kingdom; Persia arose later than Media.
5 Then what kind of animal? With a large what? We don't have to wonder what these things mean. 15-22 gives the interpretation, and again we see that horns represent kings, in these visions about the end times. Now at this time, which empire ruled the world? See 5:30-31. Greece had not yet come to power, but we are given some very specific information about what Greece will do in the future.
5-8 Who was this famous king of Greece? This prophecy is about Alexander the Great. His army was characterized by great speed. When he died leaving no heirs, four generals divided the kingdom. The goat is like the leopard in 7:6, speedy/wings, four horns/four heads.
9 Out of one of these four horns will come a small horn. The NASB says "small," the KJV says "little"; both use "little" in Dan. 7:8. The beautiful land is Israel. Dan. 11 will give greater detail about this period and this small horn, which was a historical figure, Antiochus II Epiphanes. He is not the little horn of Dan. 7; two different Hebrew words are used. That little horn will arise out of the ten horns of the final kingdom--the ten toes. But this small horn has similarities to that little horn, which we will see more of in Dan. 11.
10 What is the host of heaven? Host: a great number, organized as for an army; therefore the angels, who are often referred to in this way. The small horn has something to do with the conflict involving angels and demons. This moves us to the end times, the seven-year rule of the beast or the little horn. So this small horn, while different from that little horn, is what we call a "type" of the beast. Again, we will see more details about them both in Dan. 11. Compare this verse to Rev. 12:7-9. These two sections confirm the fact that Satan and his demons do have access to heaven, and they will until half-way through the tribulation. So Satan and his demons will actually be on earth, and the activity of this person at that time will coincide with this demonic presence.
11 Who is the Commander of the host? God. Antiochus set himself up as Israel's king. The beast/small horn makes himself equal with God; we saw earlier in Daniel that he has a mouth speaking great things: blasphemy. (The Pharisees tried to kill Jesus for blasphemy, because He was making Himself to be equal with God--under the Law, a crime punishable by death.) What else did this horn do? When Antiochus ruled, he placed an image of Jupiter in the holy place of the temple, a type of the coming "abomination of desolation" in the holy place referred to in Matt. 24:15. This tells us that there will be a temple at the time of the seven years of tribulation. (There is a move among the "faithful" of Israel now to rebuild the temple on the Mount, in preparation for the fulfillment of Scripture, and the return of their Messiah.)
12-14 Why will Israel be given over to the likes of this man Antiochus? Because of their sin; it is God's punishment. This man had no respect for God's Word, or for truth. The 2300 evenings and mornings may be understood as 2300 days, or as 2300 divided by 2, since each day had a morning and an evening sacrifice. We know that the little horn/beast will also fling truth to the ground; deception will be rampant at that time.
15-16 Could Daniel understand this vision? We see two angels here. Angels are represented as men, not as women with wings. This is the first time we meet Gabriel. Where else do we meet him? Dan. 9, Luke 1:19. He appears to be particularly involved with Israel.
17-18 What was Daniel's response to Gabriel's presence? When we see this response to an angel, how much more can we understand our own falling down in God's presence, in terror and awe? Perhaps our knees turn to water and lose all strength. The Bible records that people always fell on their faces in God's presence--never backwards, as those do who claim to be "slain in the Spirit"--a totally unbiblical practice.
What does Gabriel tell him about this vision? So it is not just about Antiochus II Epiphanes: "the time of the end." This section of prophecy clearly teaches us that prophecy can have more than one level of meaning, can have more than one time period in mind, and both are equally true.
19-22 The interpretation of what we read in the beginning of the chapter. What two phrases in 19 take us from the historical context to the future?
23 Again we are taken to the "latter period." We are told what this king, the small horn, the beast, will be like. We already know he is like Antiochus II Epiphanes. Insolent: strong, vehement, harsh, fierce, greedy. Intrigue: ambiguous speech, puzzles, tricks, riddles. Don't we see ambiguous speech in politics all the time? It will be even worse at that time, and will characterize this leader.
24 His rise to power, and his great power, will come from elsewhere, not from himself. Something different will be going on here. He will destroy to an extraordinary degree; like 7:7,23, 2:40. "Destroy" here can also mean: corrupt, decay, mar. "Extraordinary" can include: perform wondrous miracles. He will do whatever he wants. Some think Antiochus Epiphanes was demon possessed. Who would be the saints or holy people? Israel is his special target, also Christians.
25 Again we see the deception of that time, and of this man in particular--his great pride, arrogance, destructiveness (this kingdom more than any other before it). Who is the Prince of princes? Christ; he is against Christ, or anti-Christ. This again makes it very clear that the end times are in view here. But what will happen to him? Where do we read about this happening? Rev. 19:19-21.
26 This vision, this prophecy, was not for public dissemination at that time. Again we are told it is distant future. It is for the days when the Messiah returns, when the stone cut without hands becomes a mountain. We have seen biblical evidence that we are standing on the brink of that time; Israel, once again a nation, is God's timepiece.
27 Are you confused and upset when you think about what the Bible reveals about the end times? So was Daniel. This knowledge made him so numb, so sick, he was unable to work for days. The angel, 16, came to give Daniel understanding, but he still didn't understand. We are able to understand better than Daniel, because we have the rest of the Bible to shed further light. He did not know about the church or God's plan for the church or how this fit with God's plan for Israel; we do. God has a plan for Israel, for the Gentiles (the "nations"), for the church; they are all intertwined.
This information is not necessary to your daily Christian walk, if you don't want to think too much about it. Some people think it is unnecessary or inappropriate to study about the end times, or that we can't understand it or figure out what the Bible really means, and shouldn't waste our time on it. According to Acts 17, Paul was only in Thessalonica for less than a month, but according to his two letters to the Thessalonians, he had taught them about the second coming of Christ. Paul did not consider this subject inappropriate for new believers.
If you do want to know, the information is here in the Bible. We look forward to being caught up because the New Testament tells us to, but what comes after that and before the kingdom is truly frightening. It is the time when God uses frightening events and frightening people to pour out His wrath on the earth. Jesus tells us to pray "Thy kingdom come." The rapture and the tribulation must first come before that can happen, so when we pray "Thy kingdom come," we are actually praying "come, Lord Jesus." II Pet. 3:12 says we are to be "looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God." The closing words of the Bible tell us Jesus is coming quickly (suddenly, by surprise--when we are caught up), and that we, like John, are to say, "Come, Lord Jesus."
Some may get lost or lose interest in these prophecies. Why should we care about the history of Alexander the Great or Antiochus Epiphanes? One of the keys to effective Bible study is to continually keep sight of the Big Picture--to not get lost in the details: how does what I am reading fit into and help me understand the Big Picture of the Bible and the Big Picture about God? Isaiah has the answer for us: Fulfilled prophecy is the MARK of the hand of God, PROOF that the Bible is true, PROOF that God is exactly who He claims He is. Read these important passages in Isaiah: 41:23 (God is challenging those who falsely claim to be gods to present their credentials--the ability to accurately foretell the future), 42:9, 44:7-8, 45:11,21, 46:9-11, 48:3-7, Rev. 21:6.
Between one-third and one-fourth of the Bible deals with prophecy, much of which has already been literally fulfilled. Therefore, the study of prophecy is not to be lightly dismissed. No other book, religious or otherwise, accurately foretells future events in unmistakable detail, without error. Some people have predicted a few events, but with nothing even close to 100% accuracy; see what God says about them in Deut. 18:20-22. No human can predict the future with 100% accuracy, yet the Bible does. The human writers of the Bible are obviously writing what God has revealed to them; the true author of the Bible is the Holy Spirit--God Himself. Therefore we know that whatever the Bible speaks about is authoritative and true.
Why would God tell us things in advance? Just to satisfy our curiosity about the future? No--so that when they happen, we can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is God and that the Bible is His true Word, standing apart from and above all human-authored books. This is why God gives us some of the details of prophesied events; the more variables, the less possibility of chance. After three or four variables are added, the mathematical probability of chance fulfillment is virtually impossible. Some people may claim the Bible is not true or reliable, but the fact is, no one has been able to disprove the Bible. You can choose not to BELIEVE it, but that doesn't make it untrue.
1-3 The first year of Darius places this time as 536-539 BC, 66 years after Daniel's captivity. Daniel had previously served in one world empire, the Babylonian; now he has seen another come into being--the Medes and Persians--and he has served in it. He has seen the partial fulfillment of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
God had commanded Israel to give their land a Sabbath rest--to lie fallow--for one year out of every seven years, just as He commanded them to rest one day of each week, Lev. 25:1-7. For 490 years they had disobeyed; now they would be out of their land for 70 years so their land would have its 70 years of rest, II Chron. 36:21. Daniel was familiar with the prophecies of Jeremiah, Jer. 25:8-11, 29:10-12. Daniel has been in captivity 66 years; he knows the 70 years will soon be over.
4-19 We want to look at Daniel's prayer, and see what we can learn about prayer. When the Bible records prayers of great men such as Daniel, David and Paul, we want to pay attention, and learn how to pray, and what kinds of things to pray for. Now let's see how Daniel begins his prayer. We see serious prayer, no quickie here. Typical of other Old Testament prayers, what do we see first? Humble recognition of who God is, praise, recognition of sinfulness and repentance. The entire prayer, through 19, is confession and repentance. Daniel is obviously concerned that the sins of his people have sent them into this captivity; we see his concern for the land of Israel which God gave to them, for the city of Jerusalem, and for the temple there.
20-23 The plot thickens: what happens before Daniel even finishes his prayer? We see again that angels appear as men. Actually, the information the angel now gives Daniel does not seem to be anything Daniel was praying for, at least not in this prayer, or perhaps he had just not got to that part yet. But from verses 1-3 we see that this was his concern. It's interesting how he went about presenting this concern to God.
24-27 These four verses are important in understanding God's prophetic timetable for Israel. We want to look carefully and in detail at this section. First notice the main things talked about. 24, 70 "weeks" (70 sevens = 490), for who? And what place? Not the church--the church is not present in the Old Testament. 25, a decree, and a time period from the decree until the Messiah--7 "weeks" (7 sevens) and 62 "weeks" (62 sevens). 26, at the end of the time period mentioned in 25, the Messiah is cut off; Jerusalem and the temple destroyed by the people of "the prince who is to come" (the Beast). 27, a covenant of one "week" (one seven), abomination in the middle of that seven, one who makes desolate, a complete destruction decreed.
God had been dealing with Israel's previous 490 years; now He tells of their next 490 years (7 X 70 = 490). So these 70 "weeks" are not literal weeks but speak symbolically of years. So think of "week" as a symbol for seven--a "week" would be a group of seven. 25-26 tell us what is to happen during the first 69 sevens. We are to begin from what event? The decree: Neh. 2:1-8.
(To help clarify the 70 weeks, I'm going to re-insert the timeline from the first page but add some things in red.)
<-- Abraham: Jewish nation established
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________God is dealing with Israel (Law)
<-- Captivity & dispersal of Israel
*Decree* Neh. 2:4-8
(from decree to end of Malachi: 49 years)
*End of the Old Testament book of Malachi*
<--Period between Old & New Testaments (400 years)
(from end of Malachi to triumphal entry: 434 years)
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________God sets Israel aside temporarily
and is now dealing with a different group--the church (Grace)
(made up of both Jews & Gentiles)
<--Church Age (unknown duration--2000+ years)
<--Church caught up (the rapture)
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________God picks up His plan with Israel
and fulfills all the Old Testament promises He made to them
<-- *The Tribulation* (7 years)
<-- Second coming of Christ
<-- Millenium: 1000-year earthly reign
<-- Final judgment
<-- New heaven and earth
The decree in Neh. 2:4-8 was in 445 BC. From that date until the Messiah presented Himself to Israel as King at the triumphal entry to Jerusalem, 32 AD, would be 483 years. The angel groups these years as 7 sevens (49) plus 62 sevens (434). The first 49 years takes us from the decree to the end of the book of Malachi--the end of the Old Testament. There followed 400 years of silence from God during which He did not speak to Israel through any prophets. The angel said that AFTER this time has elapsed, the Messiah would be cut off.
This total time period, from the decree in Nehemiah until the Messiah being cut off, takes us to the day Christ presented Himself to Israel as King at the beginning of Easter week--the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Luke 19:14. After that, "Messiah is cut off" (rejected by Israe and crucified). The first 69 weeks of years have been exactly literally fulfilled. (There are books that give the details of figuring this time period, taking into consideration the Jewish calendar and leap years.)
After the Messiah is cut off, what will happen? The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. We do get another clue here identifying this prince; he is the prince of what people? We saw earlier in Daniel that the last world empire (the legs of iron) was the Roman empire; here we see that the Roman empire is still in view.
The seven years mentioned in 27, the break in the middle (at three and a half years), and the comments about this "prince," all fit with other passages telling of the final world ruler. Revelation talks about two 3 1/2 year periods, as does Dan. 7 and Dan. 12. This prince is the little horn of Dan. 7, the small horn of Dan. 8, the beast of Revelation and the man of sin of II Thes. 2.
So we have a known time period that has already happened, of 483 years, followed by the last seven years, which has not yet happened, for a total of 490 years--70 sevens, commonly referred to as the 70 weeks of Daniel. Do we know when the seven years of tribulation will begin? It can't begin until after the rapture; do we know when the rapture will happen? The length of the time gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks was not revealed to the prophets. We are living in the period of time following the events of 26 but before the events of 27.
Some people are confused by this time gap, or even refuse to believe there is such a time gap in these seventy years, because the Bible does not use the word "gap." (Neither does it use the terms "trinity," "original sin," or "the fall," but that doesn't mean it doesn't contain and teach those concepts.) The Bible does refer to this time gap in various places.
Hosea 3:4-5; Israel's last king ruled them up until they were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. When will they next have a king--when will their Messiah rule over them? God gives definite time periods when dealing with Israel, but to the church He doesn't give set times. Israel was first put out of the land for 490 years, the second time for 70 years, but this time for an indefinite period, "for many days," because that indefinite period is the church age.
In Luke 4:17-21, Jesus reads from a messianic prophecy, Isaiah 61:1-2, claiming that this prophecy is now fulfilled. But He stops reading in the middle of a sentence; He does not read "and the day of vengeance of our God" because that day will not be fulfilled until the seven years of tribulation just before His second coming. Following the second coming, the kingdom will finally appear. So here we have the "gap" between the 69th and 70th week of Dan. 9. What takes place during this "gap"? The church age. God temporarily stops dealing with Israel, puts them on "hold," and begins dealing with the church, for an unspecified period of time. The church age will end at the rapture and God will again begin dealing with Israel, with the seven years of tribulation fulfilling the final seven (the 70th "week") of Dan. 9.
In Luke 19:11, Jesus gives a parable about the kingdom and when it will appear. 12, a nobleman (Christ) went to a distant country (earth) to receive a kingdom; does it say He would receive it then? No--He would return. This could refer to Him returning to heaven, or to His later return to Earth; at any rate, He did not receive His kingdom at that time. He gives instructions while in this distant country, 13, and tells the people He will come back--does He say how long that will be? Some time passes, and no one knows for sure just when He is coming back. 15, He does eventually return and will receive His kingdom at that time; His faithful servants will be rewarded with responsibilities in the kingdom at that time. John 14:3, does Jesus say how much time will pass between His leaving and His return? In Acts 1:6-7, the disciples ask when the kingdom will happen; Jesus gives no time clues, then ascends back to heaven, for an indefinite period of time.
We refer to this gap or time period as the age of grace, or the church age. It is an unspecified period of time, in which we are living--the time following Christ's crucifixion, up until the time of the ruler of the final kingdom, in the time of the ten toes. The church was not revealed in the Old Testament, nor was the church age. (From our vantage point in time, we can now see that it was foreshadowed.) The New Testament calls this a "mystery," Eph. 3:8-11. In the Bible, a mystery is not something we can't figure out, but rather, as something which was not previously revealed and now is.
We have also seen that God uses specific time periods when dealing with Israel. God has not given the church any specific dates or time periods. The church age will end when the church is caught up to meet Christ in the air. Review II Thes. 2. And the seventieth week will begin at the "making" (NASB) or "confirming" (KJV) of a seven-year covenant/treaty with Israel. In the middle of the week--the middle of the seven years--the beast breaks the treaty and things begin to go very badly for Israel.
Rev. 12:13-17 tells of great persecution of Israel for 3 1/2 years, which would be the last 3 1/2 years. Is. 28:15-18 is a description of this time. References to the covenant being with death and Sheol are further evidence of the satanic power behind this man. Falsehood and deception will mark this period and this man. Compare Mat. 24:4-5,11,23-24.
27 What event marks the beginning of the final seven years (the tribulation)? He comes on the world scene and signs a seven-year covenant (make/NASB or confirm/KJV), which he breaks after 3 1/2 years. He will end sacrifice and offering; these will have been restored, meaning the temple will have been rebuilt. This covenant could be some type of treaty or agreement with Israel; "the many" could mean it will also include other nations. Or it could refer to God's covenant with Israel, requiring sacrifice at the temple, since his breaking of the covenant involves stopping the sacrifice. Making or confirming the covenant could mean giving the OK to build the temple on the disputed spot in Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock. "The many" could also mean many, but not all, of Israel; perhaps with the ultra-Orthodox, who are most interested in offering sacrifice once again.
After 3 1/2 years, he assumes the role of world leader and religious leader also. Compare Revelation 13. "On the wing of abominations": there are other references to the abomination of desolation in the middle of the seven years. "Makes desolate", or causes horrors: again Rev. 12 tells of the great persecution. Also read Mat. 24:15-21. There is a time of unprecedented horror following this event. By the way, as Matthew was written to the Jews, and the church age was still unknown, we do not see the church age or the rapture pictured in Matthew 24, as some believe. This is an important factor in understanding Matthew 24 (see notes on Mat. 24). We see in this chapter the tribulation, the second coming, and the introduction of the kingdom.
So, in short, to answer Daniel's questions about when Israel will come into her kingdom, it won't be right away! These time periods and these events must take place first. It is off in the future. We also see in studying the prophetic teachings of Matthew 24 how important it is to read and study the whole Bible before attempting to interpret and understand prophetic passages. The Bible interprets itself if you compare and contrast passages.
1 Daniel has another vision, when? Daniel is even older now--about four years after the vision of the 70 weeks. What had happened in the first year of Cyrus's reign? Read Ezra 1:1-4. So Israel's 70 years of captivity were ended; had they all returned to their land? This probably puzzled and saddened Daniel. This vision he was able to understand. The vision itself is recorded in Dan. 11 and 12; in this chapter, we have information on what went on before the vision was given, behind the scenes, in the unseen world of spiritual warfare, of angels and demons. We also have Daniel's response to the vision and to the angel. The message is about great what?
2-4 What had he been doing? Why? Great conflict, warfare involving his people's future, just as the previous angel visit had been in response to a prayer about his people and their future. (Here we see why people fasted in Bible days--to express mourning. In this instance, fasting is not even connected with prayer.) 4, the historical setting.
5-6 Someone appears to him in a vision; an angel? Christ Himself? Read Rev. 1:12-16. ("A certain man" is often used in a parable to refer to God.) Other descriptions of angels don't use this term.
7-9 If this is Christ, this is similar to Paul seeing Christ on the road to Damascus; those who were with him heard a voice but could not see Him. What is Daniel's response to being in the presence of this angel or the angel of the Lord? What will it be like when we find ourselves in God's presence? Deep awe, fear, humility, awareness of our sinfulness, no strength left--a sobering thought.
10-11 Someone touches Daniel. If the certain man was Christ, this would probably be an angel, because the rest of the chapter speaks of a prolonged conflict between him and demons. He speaks to Daniel. Many today say not to concern yourself with a "morbid" desire to know the future; just worry about living the Christian life today. But God does want us to have some understanding of future events, of His ultimate purpose and the fulfillment of all His promises. This helps us to know God better, what He is like, what He is doing, how we fit in. If we only are concerned about God's help in living our own life, we get to thinking that God's plan is all about me, or even that's it all about the church. God's plans actually center around Israel; the church is like a parenthesis during this time that God has temporarily set Israel aside. His Big Plan for the ages includes both Israel and the church. It is not all about me! This is one of the big take-away applications we can gain from studying prophecy.
12 In desiring this understanding of the future, what was Daniel's underlying attitude? Not just curiosity or the desire to see spectacular signs, but a desire for understanding the things of God. Should we do like Daniel?
13 Again we wonder if the first man was Christ. If so, we might wonder why He would need Michael to come help him. On the other hand, if it IS Christ, perhaps this is telling us that in the unseen spiritual realm, in the war between God and Satan, God uses angels (remember, the term "heavenly host" implies great numbers organized as for war). Throughout the Bible, and especially in the endtimes, we see angels very active in warring against Satan's forces of fallen angels (demons). We see Christ returning at the second coming with an army of angels, Rev. 19:14, even though He defeats the beast and his armies by the word of His mouth.
In the unseen spiritual realm are good guys and bad guys. Do the bad guys have much power? We see the terms princes and kings used of various demons and angels. Two places in the New Testament use this type of terminology, Rom. 8:38-39, Eph. 6:10-13.
13 We see a great deal of power on both sides. Why would the demon in charge of Persia not want this angel to come to Daniel? He was about to reveal some hidden information about the future of Persia and Satan's agenda. We see that Satan does not want us to have this information, but God does! What is Persia called today? Iran--front and center on today's news, and one of Israel's foremost enemies. Michael is one of two angels who are named in the Bible; the other is Gabriel. He is an archangel, but apparently not the only one.
14, who is the vision about, and what time period is it about? 15, Daniel's reaction. 16-17, how is the angel described? Many people supposedly have encounters with angels, but none of them seem to respond this way. 18-19, Daniel is now strong enough just to listen!
20 This passage suggest there may be demons (satanic angels) assigned to nations. In the Old Testament we have seen God dealing with various kings that they might know that He is God; we see Satan also at work in every kingdom.
21 Michael is the angel assigned to the nation of Israel. We are not told of any of the other good angels being assigned to nations. There may be, or perhaps only Israel, as the only nation that is God's chosen people, has an angel standing for them. Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, so they must all belong to him at this time. We also read about Michael in Dan. 12:1 (again, assigned to Israel), Jude 9, Rev. 12:7. This verse is another evidence that if Christ is pictured in 5-6, He is not the one speaking after that, but an angel. This verse would not seem to apply to Christ--the angel of the Lord.
1 The angel from Dan. 10 is speaking. The "him" at the end could be referring to Darius, or to Michael from 10:21; remember, the chapter and verse divisions were not in the original.
This chapter is a detailed prophecy of events that will impact Israel under the second and third kingdoms, Persia and Greece. 2-35 have been literally fulfilled in history, according to every detail in this chapter. Briefly, 3 refers to Alexander the Great. 4, he died, leaving no heirs, so the kingdom was divided among 4 generals. Two of those lines are discussed in this chapter: the Seleucids that ruled Syria (the kings of the North) and the Ptolemies that ruled Egypt (the kings of the South). Directions in the Bible are from Israel. Israel, in the middle, was invaded by both. 14, your people, Israel. 16, the beautiful land, Israel. 20, glory or jewel of the kingdom could be Jerusalem.
This detailed prophecy, fulfilled literally in history, is the reason critics reject the authenticity of the book of Daniel. They don't believe in miracles or the supernatural, so they just flat reject it, saying it must have actually been written AFTER those events (which would make Daniel, and therefore the Bible, false). But they have no evidence to date Daniel after these events. This is the same reasoning of the evolutionists, who reject the possibility of a God, so therefore, creation CANNOT be true, and regardless of the scientific evidence, evolution is the only other alternative, so it must be true.
This detailed prophecy that has been literally fulfilled is strong evidence that the Bible is supernatural, divine, authored by God. Use this fact in talking to unbelievers and skeptics. It should strengthen our own belief that the Bible is infallible and inerrant. It strengthens our belief that future prophecy will also be literally fulfilled, to the smallest detail.
21 Now one king in particular is discussed, Antiochus Epiphanes, a "despicable person." He is the small horn of 8:9, but not the little horn of Dan. 7, which will not arise until the ten kings/kingdoms of the final empire. But he is like that little horn, as we will see in this chapter. Everything mentioned about him through 35 has already taken place. I won't go into the historical details; you can read about this in various commentaries.
From 36-45 through the end of the chapter, we have events that have not yet been fulfilled, so they must be future. It appears to still be talking about this king, but he sounds amazingly like the little horn, the beast of Revelation. We see Antiochus Epiphanes pictured as a "type" of that final ruler, a small fulfillment in history picturing the future greater fulfillment of this prophecy, as Bible prophecy so often does. So by looking at him, we can learn more about this future king.
21, does he become the world ruler because he wins a world war? 22, he deposed the high priest, the "prince of the covenant." The people of the covenant would refer to Israel. 23, what alliance? What else have we read about that fits with this concept? What else have we read that describes deception following this alliance or covenant? Besides breaking that covenant, he will be characterized by deception.
24, again, this does not take place through war. Only for a time; his power does not last long--how long? Devise schemes, more deception, intrigue. 25, more schemes. We don't see military might being the main factor at that time. 26, he and his enemies ate together, feigned friendship; deception, political games.
27 More deception. Will man's plans prevail on this earth? God has an appointed time for everything. Things may look like they're out of control or like God is not at work, whether in endtimes events or our daily lives, but we walk by faith not sight, II Cor. 5:7.
28 He is against the Jews, the people of the holy covenant. He appears at first to be their friend, their deliverer, but he is not. 29, again, everything he does is at God's appointed time; this is all in God's plan and under His control, even though it looks like man, and Satan, are at the controls now. 30, anger at the Jews; he will favor those who turn against their own people.
31 He stopped the daily sacrifice, set up an image of Jupiter the sun god in the holy place, and offered swine's blood and broth on the altar. We read in a couple of other places about the abomination of desolation; it will happen 3 1/2 years after he signs the treaty with Israel--in the middle of the seven years, Dan. 9:27.
32 He rewarded those who turned against Israel. This was when the famous Maccabees revolted against him; this story is not recorded in the Bible but is found in other writings. We read elsewhere of brother against brother, and parent against child, not knowing who you could trust at that time. There will be a faithful remnant at that time, as always in the past.
33 As at that time, some will be faithful, but many of those will die because of it. Perhaps these who have insight, who give understanding to others, might be the 144,000 witnesses of Revelation 7. 34, hypocrisy.
35 Here we have a reason for these things which will happen to the Jews, and a specific reference to the future implications of these words. Some people talk about how Christians will have to go through this time for this reason. DOES the church need to be refined, purged, made pure? Why? Read Eph. 5:27. But we do need to do what? Read Eph. 4:13-16. We could find many passages that talk about growing and maturing. Again, it is so important to compare all Scripture.
And again, we find God's appointed time. Why is this phrase mentioned over and over in this passage? God has something important for us to learn here. The Bible makes it clear that God is at work, all the time, whether we can see it or not. If the Bible doesn't seem to match up with what we "see," which should we believe? When we don't "see" God at work, we should not conclude that therefore He is not working in that situation. We should instead remind ourselves that the Bible says God is at work in every situation, on His schedule, and His desired outcome will happen at His appointed time. This should have a major impact on how we look at the world and at our personal concerns. Remember, walk by faith not by sight, II Cor. 5:7.
36, "then" (a time word, could be referring back to end of 35). The king: his boastful arrogant mouth, making himself equal to God, demanding worship--we have read similar things in other passages (also sounds very much like what we know about Satan). Read Mat. 24:15-21, Rev. 12:14, Rev. 13:5-8. Again, we notice that his anti-god, satanic nature seems to manifest itself not at the first, but in the middle of the seven years of tribulation. As he was from the Greeks, some think the final ruler of the Roman Empire will come from that area. The indignation: another term for the Great Tribulation.
37 Could be God or gods: some think this means he will be of Jewish descent. Desire of women: some think he will be homosexual. The desire of Jewish women was to be the mother of the Messiah; the context of the verse is about regarding gods, so some think it refers to his lack of belief in the true Messiah. Perhaps he will have no interest in women or sex.
38-39 Here we have him honoring some sort of god, even though we see that he sets himself up as a god. A foreign god, a god his fathers did not know. (KJV, "strange" god) Yet 37, no regard for any other god. Some say "god of fortresses" is military might, but that is not something his fathers did not know. Something funny is going on here. We don't know what this means, but I'm sure these remarks will make perfect sense to true believers at that time, as they observe this man.
As we discussed in Dan. 7, some think he could be an "alien," a half-alien hybrid, or have some sort of "alien" connection. Several terms in this chapter seem to mesh with this idea. 21, a despicable person, not exactly a king, seizing control by "intrigue." 23, deception, will accomplish what his fathers and ancestors never did. 36, speaking monstrous things against God, the "indignation." 37, no regard for any god, or for the desire of women. 38, honoring a "god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know"--something different.
40-45 Political and military events prophesied; again we have kings of the north and the south referred to, and things going on in the east. We never read of "kings of the west"; the only major country to the west is in North America, the major world power today. This is one reason many think that somehow, the US will not be a major power at that time.
We see his kingdom pictured in Daniel as a world empire. Read Rev. 13:2. In Daniel we saw this ruler, the little horn, arising out of the 10 kingdoms, but here we see that the beast has 10 horns. It is made up of 10 kingdoms, but three of the rulers are missing. Daniel told us that this little horn would uproot three of the 10 horns. Read 13:7, he has authority over every nation, yet he does not rule unopposed. Daniel 11 tells of conflict with the king of the north and of the south, and of problems in the east.
So there will be military conflict during those seven years, but he does not come to power due to a war. Just as Antiochus Epiphanes in 24 gained access to the richest parts, so in 43 will this ruler have access to hidden wealth, whatever that is (oil or ?). 45, between the seas (Dead Sea & Mediterranean), at Jerusalem--as Christ would. 45, but he will come to an end, as we have read in many other places. This won't go on for long.
This is a continuation of the vision mentioned in Dan. 10, that began in Dan. 11. Who is speaking? Still the angel.
1 No more about the king who is like Antiochus Epiphanes, but we are told some other things. Again we are told that, just as there are wicked angels assigned to various nations, Michael is the angel that is over what nation? What is the second thing we are told in this verse? Compare Jesus' description of that time that is coming, Mat. 24:21. Some claim this has already happened, at the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD. But was that the worst thing that ever happened to the Jew? Was it worse than Hitler's holocaust? Both those events were a type of the great tribulation to come, but do not match the Bible's description of that time. What does Mat. 24:29 say will happen right after that? Did this happen in 70 AD? To take that view means you must throw out or change the meaning of parts of the Bible.
What is the third thing we are told in verse 1? Some of the Jews will be rescued; which ones? So we find that at the end of the seven years of tribulation, there will be in Israel believing Jews and unbelieving Jews. As we saw in Dan. 3, "rescued" implies being removed from the dangerous situation. The Messiah returns at that time, the little horn/beast is removed, and the believers are rescued from him.
2 There will be a resurrection of the dead then; who must be resurrected at that time? Believing Israel; they must be resurrected in order to inherit the kingdom, to receive what God promised them. "These" must refer back to 12:1--everyone who is found written in the book. Compare Dan. 12:13. Daniel will rise to receive his allotted portion at that time; so must all true believers of Israel. Mat. 8:11, Eze. 37:12. What about that last phrase--when are all unbelievers resurrected? At the last judgment, Rev. 20:11-15. That takes place at the end of the millenium, Rev. 20. Just because both statements are found in the same verse does not imply they must take place at the same time; when Jesus read from Isa. 61:1-2, He stopped in the middle of 2, because the first part of 2 refers to His first coming and the second part refers to His second coming.
So how many resurrections are there, and when? First, at the rapture of the church, I Thes. 4:16-17, the dead "in Christ" will rise. Second, at the end of the tribulation, believing Jews who have died. Third, all unbelievers are resurrected at the end of the millenium. Rev. 20:1-4, non-Jews who believe during the tribulation and who die, are resurrected at the end of the tribulation, before the millenial kingdom begins, along with the believers of Israel in the Old Testament.
What about Old Testament believers who were not of Israel? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not Jews (Jews are the sons of Israel/Jacob), but according to Mat. 8:11, the Old Testament righteous must be resurrected at this time too. There must be a final resurrection of believers at the end of the kingdom--those who become believers during the kingdom age, because we are told there will be birth and death during the millenium, Isa. 65:20. These might be the ones referred to in Rev. 20:15, those whose names ARE found written in the book of life.
The word "many" at the beginning of 12:2 may be referring particularly to Israel; compare also the word "many" in 9:27, 12:2,3,4,10.
3 Some will have great insight (margin: the instructors), and some will lead many to righteousness. This could be a reference to the 144,000 witnesses of Rev. 7.
4 These prophecies are for the distant future, the end of time (which is followed by the beginning of eternity, at the end of Christ's earthly kingdom). Seal: preserve, close up, validate. Some think this means we can't know what this book is about. As far as Daniel is concerned, he should seal it up, because it is not for him but for the distant future. We are getting close to that time, and, unlike Daniel, we now have God's complete written Word. Compare Rev. 22:10 and 1:3. Some think the last phrase refers to increased travel and knowledge in our modern world; only in our time has modern travel, especially airline travel, become easy and commonplace, and the computer has caused our age to be called "the information age."
5 Two more angels.
6-8 One asks Christ how long it will be. At the end of the 3 1/2 years everything mentioned will be completed. Again, time, times, and half a time--3 1/2 years. Shatter: elsewhere in the Bible we learn that the kings of all the earth are coming against Israel at the end of the tribulation.
9 Daniel is not to concern himself over these things; they are not for his time. Some say that prophecies were fulfilled in the immediate context of those to whom it was given; otherwise, if it was not for them, it wouldn't make sense. But here we see that Daniel has been given much information regarding the distant future, and is told as much.
10 This is not speaking of the church; the context is Israel. The church or the church age is not mentioned in the Old Testament. This is what God is doing with Israel during the seven years of tribulation, and especially the last 3 1/2 years. The Old Testament has been very clear that their disobedience has brought this upon them.
11-12 Another reference to the abomination of desolation. We saw that 1260 days equaled 3 1/2 years, so what are these two numbers indicating? Apparently some things will happen in between the end of the seven years and the beginning of the kingdom reign of Christ. It could be the judging of the Gentiles to show who will enter the kingdom and who won't. Not all will "attain" to this day, Mat. 25:31-46, Mat. 13:40-43, 47-50, Dan. 7:21-22. It sounds like a bit of time passes while this all takes place, or something else could be in view here.
13 Again, Daniel is told that he should just go on with his life since these things won't really concern him. This speaks of his death, entering his rest (Abraham's bosom, Luke 16:22-23), then his resurrection at the end of the church age, the age of grace--at the beginning of the next age or dispensation, the kingdom age. The angel reaffirms that he will have a part in these events at that distant time. Also Isa. 26:19-21. So we find the Bible teaches that Old Testament saints will be resurrected for the beginning of the kingdom age, to inherit all the promises regarding the kingdom on earth, when Israel will be the head and not the tail, and Christ rules from Jerusalem. God will fulfill all His promises to Israel, and to us.
Many more prophecies about the Messiah's future earthly kingdom are given to Israel throughout the Old Testament books of prophecy. Many prophecies have fulfillment on two levels: a near-future partial fulfillment, and a distant future complete fulfillment. Here are some passages that you can look up and study. Portions of the following:
Many Psalms have their fulfillment in endtimes events, particularly the coming of the Messiah, Israel's promised King. Some have reference to the tribulation period (what believers at that time will be thinking, feeling and praying), some to the second coming, the judgment of the wicked, and the righteous reign of the Messiah's earthly kingdom over all the nations. While you can find more than are listed here, consider all or parts of these Psalms: 2, 9, 10-17, 21, 22, 24, 27-29, 45-50, 52, 58-59, 65-68, 72, 75-76, 79, 83, 91, 93-94, 96-99, 102, 110
In the books of prophecy, note especially terms like "the day," "that day," "in that day," "on that day," "the day of wrath," "the day of the Lord." These generally refer to the endtimes; the day of the Lord includes both the dark days of the great tribulation and the righteousness of the kingdom. These are samplings of endtimes references:
Isaiah 10-14, 17, 19:16-25, 22-29, 31-35, 40-44, 47-49, 51-53, 60-66
Jeremiah 23:1-6, 25:30-38, 30-33, 46:27-28, 51
Ezekiel 7, 26-28 (Tyre, "the great city," represents commercialism, materialism, the idolatry of greed, which God will judge and destroy before bringing in His perfect earthly kingdom), 36-39
Hosea 3:4-5, 13:7-8 (notice the four beasts of Dan. 7)
Joel 2:1-2,10,18-32, 3
Micah 1:1-4, 4:1-7, 5:10-15
Nahum 1:1-8, 3:1-7 (more on "the City"--commercialism)
Zechariah 1-8, 10:6,10, 12-14
For more New Testament rapture references, check out these webpages:
FOR FURTHER READING
Compare biblical prophecy with how the world's stage is set for prophecy to be fulfilled:
Super collider: black holes?
"Explanation" for the rapture? or for the appearance of "alien" beings?
Five Ways the World Can End
Powerful Solar Storm Could Shut Down U.S. for Months
California earthquake: the big one is coming
Mary (actually, a demonic spirit calling itself "Mary")
A "channeled" message
Gaia (Mother Earth)
Islam, the 12th Imam, and the endtimes
Transhumanism & endtimes prophecy
The Technologies of Revelation
New army weapon
Lying signs and wonders
Loss of electric grid
False Messiah/Antichrist/Beast coming soon: Maitreya star
Implantable Chip in Vaccine?
Watch headlines for status of world economy, terrorism, mid-east/Israel unrest, etc.
Copyright 2008 Jan Young
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