January 20, 2016

Introduction to End-Time Prophecy

An introduction to the study of the Book of Revelation 
for the Sunday evening small group at First Baptist Church, Glenville, West Virginia.
This is the outline from which I taught.


The Signs of His Coming

-          No date
o   Mark 13:32-35:  “…about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 35 Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.”

-          The Bible teaches imminent return—in the next moment!

o   While the Bible talks about conditions in the last days…there are no calamity; political, economic, or religious developments; & no prophecies needing to be fulfilled…before JC returns for His bride, the church.

§  James 5:7-9: “7 Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”

o   1 Thessalonians 5:1-9: “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

o   Titus 2:11-13: “11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,…”

-          We do know from scripture the order of future prophetic events.

1.      The latter times or the last days of the church age (now)
2.      The return of Christ for the church, His bride—1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: “13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

3.      Third in the order of prophetic events…the 7-year tribulation period on earth (Revelation 4-19), also called the “70th week of Daniel” (Daniel 9:24-27)—
Daniel 9:24-27— 24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. 25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”[1]

4.      Fourth in the order of prophetic events is the return of the Lord “with power and great glory” with His church to establish His Millennial reign on earth (Revelation 20 and Matthew 24:29-30)—

Matthew 24:29-30—29 “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.

-          We believe we are now in the latter days (end times, or last days) prophesied for the church age. Scriptures referring to this period of time, or dispensation, describe the social conditions and attitudes that will be apparent at the time immediately before the return of Christ for His church (called the “rapture”).

o   1 Timothy 4:1-5—1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3 They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

o   2 Timothy 3:1-9— But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses,[2] so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

o   2 Timothy 4:3-4—3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

o   2 Peter 3:3-4—3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”

o   These prophesied “last days” for the church will be marked by apostasy, seduction by false spirits, unnatural affection, pride, treachery, skepticism, etc.—that is, an accurate description of the world in 2016!

-          We are not told in the Bible to become preoccupied with specific “signs” to immediately precede our Lord’s return for us, but only the general conditions that will exist in the “last days.” From its inception in the first century A.D., the New Testament tells us that His return is imminent, and that we should be expecting it at any moment. Paul calls this our “blessed hope” (Titus 2:13— 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,…). This applies to every generation of Christians, but we believe that the conditions the Bible describes as characteristic of the last days of the church age are evident today.

o   Matthew 24 has been subject to much discussion. In Matthew 24:3, the disciples asked Jesus, “…what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The church age and the rapture of the church are not taught in the Old Testament, so it is thought by many Bible scholars that the disciples could not, therefore, be asking about these doctrines, because they had yet to be revealed by the Holy Spirit. There are many just-as-qualified Bible scholars who believe Jesus is referring generally to His return, without differentiating between His return for His church and His return to reign with His church. I believe the former interpretation is to be preferred.

What they were asking Jesus was what signs would precede His return as to rule Israel (as prophesied in the Old Testament). His response refers to His return at the end of the tribulation to rule not just Israel, but the entire earth in His millennial kingdom This is found in Matthew 24:29-30—29 “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.

o   Another evidence that Jesus may have been referring to His return at the end of the tribulation in Matthew 24 is His mention in verse 14 that “…this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” The universal preaching of the gospel is accomplished finally in the tribulation period, and is described in Revelation 14:6-8—“6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Note the timing of the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom to every person on the earth—after the rapture but before the Lord returns at the end of the tribulation to establish His millennial kingdom.

-          There will, however, be signs Israel is to look for during the tribulation period. This is the time when the church is with the Lord in heaven looking down on the events transpiring on the earth as the Lord judges Israel and the rest of humanity. Looking down on the events, the church witnesses the ordeal of the Jews and Gentiles alike as the Lord judges and witnesses to Israel in preparation for His return to reign.

o   Jesus reveals to His disciples some of the signs that will take place during the tribulation as the time nears for His return to reign:

§  False messiahs and prophets deceiving many (Matthew 24:5, 11)
§  Wars and rumors of wars (v. 6)
§  Unprecedented political turmoil, famine disease, and earthquakes (v.7)
§  Martyrdom, betrayals by members of one’s family (vv. 9-10)
§  Licentiousness and lawlessness as in the days of Noah (vv. 37-39)
§  A 10-nation confederacy of the revived Roman Empire (Daniel 2, Revelation 13)
§  The building of the temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 9:26-27)
§  Physical signs—earth, sun, moon, and stars (Luke 21:25; Joel 2:30-31)
§  Hearts will fail for fear due to cataclysmic events (Luke 21:26)
§  The believing remnant of Israel will be gathered from throughout the earth (Matthew 5:31)
                                                                                                                                   
-          These signs precede the coming of the Lord “…in power and great glory…” to redeem believing Israel and usher in His 1,000-year reign on earth (Luke 21:27-28; Matthew 24:27, 30, 42).

-          We see the advent or imminence of some of these signs now, just another indication that the time may be near. The signs Jesus told to His disciples will become fully evident, however, after the Lord returns for the catching up of His church in the air (the rapture) and will precede His return at the end of the tribulation.

-          Note that the Christians in Thessalonica were troubled because of false teachers who taught them that they had somehow missed the rapture (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3—1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.”

o   The terrible trials and persecutions these Christians were suffering made them wonder about the times and left them susceptible to false teachers telling them that they were in the midst of the great tribulation.

o   Paul’s reassurance in 2 Thessalonians is in the context of his first letter to the Thessalonian Christians, in which he promised them (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18): “16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together[3] with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

-          It seems readily apparent that the spirit of apostasy the Bible describes as characteristic of the last days is present today, which leads us to an ever-increasing realization that the Lord’s return for His church and the beginning of the tribulation period are imminent. That has been the “blessed hope” of the church since its inception and the expectation of every generation of Christians since the apostles.

-          While we wait for and anticipate His return, we must continue to do the Lord’s work of reaching the lost, encouraging one another, walking in the Spirit, and demonstrating in our manner of living the difference Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit makes in our lives.

-          The Holy Spirit admonishes us to live as though the Lord’s return will happen at any time (1 John 2:28—“28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.”)

-          Finally, as we look forward to His appearing, we can take to heart the words of 1 John 3:1-3— 3See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”



Footnotes:

[1] These are “sevens” of years and describe a period of 49 years (7 sevens), thought to be the time between Daniel’s writing until the end of Nehemiah’s ministry or the end of the prophecies of Malachi; followed by a period of 62 sevens (483 years), for a total of 490 years (69 “sevens”) until the first advent of the Messiah, which is thought to have been fulfilled with the triumphal entry of the Messiah circa 30 A.D. The final 7 years (the 70th “seven”) is the prophesied 7-year tribulation.
[2] Jewish tradition holds that these were two men among the Egyptians who went with the Israelites in the Exodus, and that they were the ones who urged the Israelites to make and worship the golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai. They are not mentioned in the Old Testament, however.
[3] Anytime someone tells you the term “rapture” does not appear in the Bible, refer them to 1 Thessalonians 4:17. The Greek word is translated to English here as “caught up together.” The origin of the English word “rapture” comes from Latin translation of this verse in the Latin Vulgate, a translation produced in the 4th century A.D. and in use for more than 1,000 years prior to the translation of the Bible into common languages. The term “rapture” is a transliteration of the Latin verb raptus in v. 17, or perhaps the transliteration of the French form of the same word, meaning to “catch up” or “take away.”

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