prophecy Posts

Prophecy: Judgments & Resurrections

The Judgments

There is often much confusion about different judgments and resurrections in the Bible. This will help simplify and spell out these two areas of prophecy.

The Judgments

Before the Great Tribulation

1. Judgment of the work of the church saints. The picture is painted of church saints who will have their works weighed, whether they were done in faith or not. This judgment is a rewards judgment that will result in church saints being rewarded for their deeds done in faith. I believe this will happen when the church is raptured prior to the Great Tribulation (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

At the End of the Great Tribulation

2. Judgments of those still alive at the end of the Great Tribulation. Jesus tells us there will be a judgment for those who survive the Great Tribulation. This is often referred to as the judgment of the sheep and goats. Those who are believers will live and go into the Millennium, and those who are unbelievers will die and wait for another judgment (Matthew 25:31-33).

3. Judgment of the nations. At the end of the Great Tribulation, Jesus will bring the nations of the world before Him and they will be judged. This will be the same as the judgment of the sheep and goats, but it often refers specifically to the nations, which are made up of both sheep and goats, believers and unbelievers (Matthew 25:31-46; Joel 3:2).

4. Judgment of Israel. At the end of the Great Tribulation there will be a judgment of Israel that will weed the unbelievers from the believers. This too is part of the judgment of the sheep and goats (Ezekiel 20:37-38).

5. First judgment of Satan. When Jesus returns and defeats the antichrist and all the nation’s armies in the battle of Armageddon, He will also lock up Satan for the period of the Millennium, until the very end (Revelation 20:2-3).

After the Millennium

6. Judgment of Satan and the fallen angels. There will come a time after the Millennium when Satan will be loosed one last time to lead a rebellion against Jesus, the God-King. When Satan is defeated, Jesus will cast him and his demonic angels into the lake of fire for all eternity (Revelation 20:7-10; Jude 6; 1 Corinthians 6:3).

7. The Great White Throne Judgment. The last of all the judgments will be for all unbelievers for all time. John refers to this as taking place before a great white throne upon which God sits as judge. The result of this judgment is that all unbelievers for all time will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity – where Satan and the demons live also (Revelation 20:11-15).

 

The Resurrections

Before the Great Tribulation

1. Resurrection of the church saints. Prior to the Great Tribulation, church saints will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air. This will include those who are living and those who are dead. These dead church saints will be resurrected for this rapture of all church saints (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

At the End of the Great Tribulation

2. Resurrection of Old Testament and dead Tribulation saints. At the end of the Great Tribulation, all Old Testament saints and all dead Tribulation saints will be raised from the dead so they can enter into the Millennium along with living saints who survived the Great Tribulation. This is also called the first resurrection, referring to the first general resurrection, and it is believers only (Daniel 12:2; Revelation 20:4-6).

After the Millennium

3. Resurrection of all unbelievers. All unbelievers for all time will be raised from the dead to stand before God on His Great White Throne and His judgment. They will face their judgment and be cast eternally into the lake of fire. This is also called the second resurrection, being the second general resurrection, and it will be unbelievers only (Revelation 20:11-15).

Prophecy: The Millennium

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The word millennium is a way of delineating the thousand-year period mentioned specifically in Revelation 20:2-7. However, over the last century, there has been a growing debate over the purpose, nature and even the reality of this period mentioned in the Bible. Personally, I take the Bible at face value.

When it refers to this period of time specifically as “a thousand years” or “the thousand years” six times in those six verses, I take that to mean there is going to be a specific thousand-year period, not a long, indefinite period of time, where the world gets better and better. Why would John call it a, or the, thousand years, six verses in a row, if he meant something less specific?

So what do we know about the Millennium from the Scriptures?

Psalm 2:1-12 forecasts that God the Father will establish His Son as King over all the nations of the world.

Daniel 2:44 prophesies that this Messiah King will bring an end to all earthly kingdom and usher in His own perfect and just kingdom.

Isaiah 7:6-7 declares that He will be in the lineage of King David, and as the Prince of Peace, will usher in “world peace” for the first time in human history.

Jeremiah 23:5-8 further promises that this King, in the lineage of David, will usher in a world of peace and justice, but will bring the Jewish people from all over the world to dwell in a restored land of Israel.

Isaiah 2:2-4 tells us that in this future kingdom, Jerusalem will be the focal point of the world, and the coming King will reign here over all the nations of the world.

Isaiah 11:4-9 makes it clear this period will not only be a time of peace but also of absolute justice for all on the earth.

Isaiah 35:1-7 paints a picture of healing on the earth during this period of time, healing of both the land and all the people who enter in there.

Isaiah 49:14-26 promises the future King will deal with all of Israel’s enemies justly and restore the nation of Israel to their promised land.

Joel 2:26-27 adds to this the promise that the nation of Israel will never again be put to shame in the world.

Ezekiel 40-43 portrays the new, future Temple in Jerusalem in great detail. It will be the most magnificent Temple ever and will be indwelt by the God King-Priest Himself.

Daniel 7:18, among other Old Testament passages, seems to indicate that part of the population of the Millennium will be Old Testament saints, especially believing descendants of Abraham. That means they would be raised from the dead to enjoy the kingdom promised them.

Revelation 20:4 clearly spells out that martyred saints from the Tribulation will be raised from the dead and enter into the Millennium as well.

Revelation 3:21 is a record of Jesus promising church saints that they will rule and reign with Him in the Millennium.

Revelation 20:2-3, 7-8 prophesies that Satan will be confined and have no influence during this thousand years until the very end when he will be released to lead any who want to revolt against the God-King. The Millennium will begin with only believers and saints, but over time they will have children, who will each have to choose whether they are willing to put their trust in Jesus. Some will not, and will follow after Satan at the end of the Millennium.

Revelation 20:7-10 tells us that at the very end of the Millennium Jesus will defeat and banish Satan forever.

These are but a sampling of the hundreds of passages that speak to this aspect of prophecy.

To put the Millennium in perspective, it is promised to be a thousand-year period that will follow the Great Tribulation. This will be a time marked by Christ being the Priest-King, ruling in a new Jerusalem from a new Temple, and will rule with love and justice over a world kingdom, over all the nations.

Prophecy: The Antichrist

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Ever since Satan declared, “I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:12-14, NASB), he has been about the business of accomplishing that goal. One of the ways he plans to attempt to supplant God and make himself greater is to trick the world into believing that he is “like God.” (See this described in a dramatic form in Revelation 12.)

In yet to be fulfilled prophecy, one of those planned deceptions is to raise up a counterfeit Christ. We see quite a bit about this antichrist in Scripture. For instance, we are told in Daniel what happens after the true Messiah is cut off and killed:

…the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (Temple). And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he (this substitute prince who is to come) will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (7 years), but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate (this antichrist is destroyed). – Daniel 9:26-27 (NASB, parentheses added)

Most of the Jewish people who are part of the nation of Israel today are looking for the Messiah to come as a political, military figure who will rescue them from those who would destroy them. There are about 6-7 million Jews in Israel today surrounded by more than 50 million Muslims, many of whom want to see Israel destroyed. Satan will one day provide a substitute messiah who will come as a political, military leader, offer peace and sign a 7-year treaty with the nation of Israel. Many will undoubtedly embrace him as their promised messiah.

But after 3½ years this fake messiah will turn on the nation of Israel, and destroy Jerusalem and the Temple, until his own predicted demise at the hands of the true Messiah, who is coming again.

This antichrist will be a leader from the western part of the world, related to but not the same as the Old Roman Empire. Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 mention the 4 (plus 1) kingdoms that are to come. They are described in unmistakable detail: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and another kingdom that is related to Rome but weaker and not under one ruler – yet. This last kingdom is detailed even further in Revelation 17-18.

And it is in The Revelation to John the Apostle that we see even more details of this antichrist. For instance, we get a glimpse of him in Revelation 6:2 where he is described as having a crown (a national leader). He will go out from his own nation to conquer others, and he will be successful.

In Revelation 13 we see this antichrist dramatically described as a beast that came out of the sea (or from across the sea?). He will be able to move fast militarily and will be overwhelmingly powerful. Satan will give this beast, the antichrist, his own power, a throne to rule from and great authority. He will be Satan’s puppet king on the earth.

This antichrist is described as being one who spoke and was listened to as he will make great promises, and will speak against God for the last 3½ years of the Great Tribulation. He will become a whole world ruler (Revelation 13:7) and he will work to bring about the demise of all who call on the name of the one true God. And many in the world will worship him instead of God.

We also see in Revelation 13 and elsewhere that this antichrist will have a high priest accomplice. And when the antichrist receives a death blow (Revelation 17:8), this false prophet will raise him from the dead. Remember, Satan is trying to make himself like the Most High, and God raised His Son from the dead.

This false prophet, along with the antichrist, will establish not only a worldwide empire, but also a one-world religion (Revelation 17:1-6, 15). The antichrist will be the god figure of this worldwide religion (Revelation 13:15) that will be gaudy, elaborate, brazen and ornate (Revelation 17:4). It will be a religious system that is bloodthirsty for all who profess faith in Christ (Revelation 17:5-6).

The antichrist will move from this short-lived seventh kingdom of the west. The first 7 great empires described are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, followed by this yet future seventh that will be this coalition of 10 (plus 1) nations who are either part of or related to the Old Roman Empire. Daniel 2:40-43 speaks of the establishment of this eighth empire, a worldwide kingdom that will be headquartered back where it all began: Babylon in south central Iraq (Revelation 17:9-13).

In Genesis 11:1-9 we see all the peoples of the earth, repopulated after the flood, gathered in this same area, where they built a tower into the heavens. This was a ziggurat built much like a pyramid, only with clay bricks. The very top of this ziggurat was a throne room that was uninhabited. Remember, Satan said:

“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly
In the recesses of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.” – Isaiah 14:13-14 (NASB)

This ziggurat was the Tower of Babel, where the eventual city of Babylon would be built, and it still exists today. Most likely, the people of the earth were gathering to build a throne room for Satan into the heavens, and that is why God confounded their languages, as a means to separate them into diverse nations so they couldn’t fulfill Satan’s desires. This same place will be rebuilt into grand fashion by the antichrist and will serve as the capital of his worldwide kingdom and religion. Satan is and will be working to bring the entire world of nations together once again, to follow and worship him.

The antichrist will be a bigger than life personality that will promise peace to Israel and the world, but instead he will use his power to turn the world over to Satan.

Eventually, God will thwart Satan’s and the antichrist’s plot, and in an unimaginable battle, defeat the antichrist, the false prophet, the gathered armies of the world and Satan at the battle fought in the Valley of Megiddo (Revelation 17:15-19:21). In the end, God wins!

 

Prophecy: An Incredible 45 Days

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Sometimes little things turn out to be quite powerful. There is intense interest in both the Great Tribulation and the Millennium. However, there is a fascinating passage in Daniel 12:11-12 indicating there will be a 45-day period after the Great Tribulation but before the Millennium. What has God planned for those 45 days?

The prophet Joel indicates part of what will take place during this period. In Joel 2:12-17 God is described as calling the nation of Israel, all 12 tribes, back to Himself. After that happens, God will bless the land that He promised to the nation and restore the people to their land (Joel 2:18-27). Some have stated they believe this will take place at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. But I find that hard to believe, since He also promises three times over, “Then My people will never be put to shame.” During the last 3½ years of the Great Tribulation, Israel will be running and hiding to save their lives.

There is going to be a complete national repentance of the nation of Israel, and God is going to restore them to their land and bless the land. They will never be put to shame again. But that’s not all.

Joel paints a prophetic picture of all the people of the nation of Israel receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, and all of them will speak the message of hope through Christ to those of other nations in their own language (Joel 2:28-32). He says even Jewish boys and girls will be doing this. The purpose of this great outpouring of God’s message to the world is to give all those yet living the opportunity to repent and call on the name of Christ, not curse at Him. It will be one of the greatest evangelism periods in human history.

Jesus also gives us a picture of something that will take place during this 45-day period. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus speaks of coming again, sitting on a throne and bringing judgment to those yet living at the end of the Great Tribulation. This is often referred to as the judgment of the sheep and goats, because the section begins like this:

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and goats on the left. – Matthew 25:31-33

He goes on to say those on His right, the sheep, will enter into the Kingdom, the Millennium Kingdom. But those on the left, the goats, will be cast into the lake of fire, which we often hear labeled as hell.

So during this 45-day gap between the Great Tribulation and the Millennium, three primary things are going to happen: The entire nation of Israel is going to turn to Christ and repent, leading to God’s blessing on them and their land, and they will never again be put to shame. They will be evangelists for Christ to all the nations. And after the entire living world of people have this last chance to respond to Christ, He will come and bring judgment on all the living people in the world. Some will enter into the coming Millennium Kingdom. Others will be cast out, waiting for their final sentencing at The Great White Throne Judgment, after which they will be cast into the eternal lake of fire.

It is going to be one power-packed little 45-day period.

Prophecy: The Great Tribulation

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Imagine someone who has never seen a football game before coming to America in January and hearing one conversation after another about the Super Bowl. They don’t understand, so they ask you to explain what the Super Bowl is. You begin by telling them a little about the game of football and how it is played. They stop you and then say, “Oh, I’ve seen the Super Bowl. I just didn’t know that’s what it was.” “When did you see the Super Bowl?” you ask. “I saw some young boys playing that game in the park on the way over here today.” Then you say, “Well, there are many football games played by many different players. But there is only one Super Bowl each year.

People have faced many tribulations over the centuries, but the Bible makes it clear there will be only one “Great Tribulation” that will yet occur, and it will be unlike any other tribulation the world has ever seen.

The prophets of old first introduce this Great Tribulation in the Old Testament:

For thus says the Lord, I have heard the sound of terror, of dread, and there is no peace. Ask now, and see if a male can give birth. Why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in childbirth? And why have all faces turned pale? Alas! for that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress…. – Jeremiah 30:5-7 (NASB)

Later Daniel writes about this time, and talks about the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. He records that it will be a desolate time (see Daniel 9:24-27).

Referring to this period as “the day of the Lord,” Joel chimes in with this:

The Lord utters His voice before His army; Surely His camp is very great, For strong is he who carries out His word. The day of the Lord is indeed great and very awesome, And who can endure it? – Joel 2:11 (NASB)

Daniel tells us when this period will begin, what will happen (in a nutshell) and how long it will last (Daniel 9:24-27). Many other passages from the Old Testament also allude to and/or describe this yet future period of great tribulation.

This Great Tribulation will be a 7-year period (Daniel 9:24-27) that will have two halves. It will start on the day the leader of the western coalition of nations signs a 7-year treaty with the nation of Israel.

In Revelation 4-18 we get a graphic depiction of what this period will be like. We are told that halfway through the 7-year treaty period, this leader of the western coalition of nations, called the beast or antichrist, will break the treaty with Israel, and will unleash his fury on the Jewish nation and any believers in Christ who have come to faith in Him after the church was raptured. We are told there will be a great revival of the people of Israel and 144,000 of them will be sealed and sent as missionaries all over the world. The response will be multitudes of people beyond counting that will receive Christ.

While the antichrist is carrying out his reign of terror on believers, God will unleash His judgmental fury on the whole world. God’s motive is to get as many people as will to turn to Him and away from this false impostor of Christ, the antichrist.

God’s judgment, this Great Tribulation, will see disease and plagues affecting the world, all sea life will die, all fresh water will be contaminated and sun bursts of energy will fry the flesh of people and animals, along with ongoing darkness as well as unrelenting earthquakes, volcanoes and 100-pound hailstones all over the world.

And the response of the people of that world in that day who have not already received Christ? It paints a picture of people climbing to mountaintops and shaking their fists at God, cursing Him, and crying out for Him to just kill them and get it over with. Not repentance. No pleas for mercy. Just get it over with.

By the end of this time, over half of the world’s population will have died, the planet will be an ecological disaster and the world will be on the brink of a world war that includes all the nations on the planet, converging on the Middle East to do war with God.

According to Revelation 19 this Great Tribulation will end with all the armies of the world gathered under the command of the antichrist, with the goal of defeating God and His angelic army, the hosts of heaven. But it will not end well for the antichrist or any of his followers. They will all be slain in one fell swoop by Christ, as the Lord of hosts, in the Valley of Megiddo of northern, modern-day Israel.

Some claim this tribulation has already taken place. Some say it just represents hard times in life. But you can’t truly study all the passages of Scripture that deal with this period of time and claim it has already happened – unless you are willing to fudge on a normal, literal interpretation of the Bible. But if the Bible does not speak authoritatively on this and other prophecy, then we have undermined the Scriptures from being the final authority and made ourselves or our theology the final authority.

There are many football games but only one Super Bowl. There are many tribulations in this world, past and present, but only one Time of Jacob’s Distress, Day of the Lord: The Great Tribulation. And it is yet to come.

Prophecy: The Church

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The church is referred to with various images in the New Testament. It is called “the body of Christ,”[1] “the bride of Christ,”[2] “the gathering,”[3] “the flock,”[4] “the household of the faith,”[5] “the pillar and bulwark of the truth”[6] and “the Way.”[7] But there is another expression used in the New Testament to describe the church: the Mystery.

Different things are labeled a mystery in the Bible, but clearly in Romans 11:25 and Ephesians 3:3 Paul reveals the mystery that God has set the nation of Israel aside for a period of time until the time of the Gentiles, His church, is finished.

The reason the church is called a mystery in the New Testament is because the full extent of God’s plan to set aside the nation Israel for a period of time and work in and through Gentiles all over the world was not so clearly revealed before. Paul explains:

By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel…. – Ephesians 3:4-6 (NASB)

In this same passage Paul goes on to explain that he was called by God to preach to the Gentiles “and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden…so that the manifold wisdom of God might be known through the church…” (Ephesians 3:8-10, NASB). Paul also says, “Of this church…that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints…” (Colossians 1:25-26, NASB).

Just as the nation Israel has been and will be part of God’s prophetic message, so the church is living out its prophesied role in God’s plan. The church is living in the prophetic present right now. This is the first prophecy regarding the church. But there is more foretold about the church.

Regarding the prophetic future of the church, there are certain promises yet to come. In another prophetic promise we are told the church will be raptured, caught up to meet the Lord in the air – both living and dead church saints – to be with the Lord forever:

But we do not want you to be uniformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up (raptured) together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NASB, parentheses added by author)

Here Paul is writing the church at Thessalonica informing them there will be a time when those who are part of the church – both those who have died and those who are still living at the time – will be raptured up to meet the Lord in the air. This is distinct from other resurrections. (More on those later.) It is not the picture we will see later of the return of Christ to the earth. This is meeting Him in the clouds. This is a promise to the church, unlike any promise to anyone else.

There is no little amount of debate about when this rapture will take place. I will not delineate all these positions and their arguments. However, I will say most biblical students who hold to a normal, literal historical and grammatical interpretation of all the Scriptures agree the text seems to point to this rapture taking place before the Great Tribulation described in Revelation 4-18. This is the view I believe best takes into account all of the Scriptures on the subject.

A third prophetic promise regarding the church, after we are raptured, is we will stand before the Lord to receive our rewards, as athletes stands on a platform to receive their medallions. Notice these words of Paul to Timothy:

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done…. – 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)

The church is presently living out the past prophetic promise that it would come into existence as a mystery revealed. But it is promised yet in the future that it will eventually be raptured to meet the Lord in the air, be rewarded, and in their glorified bodies, they will reign with Christ forever (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 22:5).

 

[1] Ephesians 4:12

[2] Ephesians 5:24-27

[3] Acts 1:15

[4] 1 Peter 5:2

[5] Galatians 6:10

[6] 1 Timothy 3:15 (NRSV)

[7] Acts 24:14

Prophecy: The Nation Israel

Keep Your Zipper Up

There has been a growing consensus within Christian theology students that God is finished with the nation of Israel. They believe either the church has replaced the nation of Israel or it is a spiritual form of Israel. From my study of Scripture, it seems abundantly obvious that God made promises to the nation of Israel that have not yet been fulfilled.

If God were finished with the nation of Israel, then one would have to conclude either God made a mistake in His promises to the nation of Israel or went back on His promises, which would make God fallible and a liar. Banish the thought! God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t go back on His promises. God has a plan for both the church and the nation of Israel.

In Genesis 12, 15, 17 and 22 God promised Abraham several things:

  1. God would make from him a great nation (Israel)
  2. He would give this nation a land of their own, and He spelled out the boundaries of that land
  3. He would bless Abraham and this great nation
  4. He would bless those who blessed them and curse those who cursed this nation
  5. He would be a blessing through this nation to the rest of the world

God has kept His promises, but not all of those promises have been fully realized – yet. God did make Israel a great nation. We see the beginning of this recorded in the book of Exodus. Later when they were defeated by Assyria and Babylon, He brought them back as a nation as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. In more recent times God brought them back together as a nation in 1948 after 1,878 years of being dispersed throughout the world following their destruction by Rome in AD 70.

God gave them a land as recorded in the book of Joshua, but they didn’t have all the land that was promised to them. King David and King Solomon expanded the borders of the land in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings, but they still never came close to having all the land promised to them. That has not yet been completely realized either.

This prophetic promise of God using the nation Israel in the later days is seen developed beginning in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel prophesied that God planned on accomplishing His work through the nation of Israel in a 490-year period. He said He would accomplish the first 483 years of this promise from the time a decree was given to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, with Artaxerxes in BC 444, until the promised Messiah was killed by Rome and Israeli authorities in AD 32-33. (Remember, Israel’s calendar had 360 days per year, not 365.25 days per year.)

After that, Daniel said there would be one more period of 7 years (a week of years) for Him to use the nation of Israel to accomplish all He planned through them. He tells us that amounts to 84 months, or 2,520 days. This is the same accounting we see in Revelation 4-18. Daniel said this last period will begin when the antichrist, the leader of the Western world, signs a 7-year treaty with the nation of Israel. This 7-year period is often referenced as the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob’s trouble – a tribulation like the world has never seen. (More on the tribulation period later.)

In Joel 2-3 we see that by the end of this period, the entire nation of Israel will repent and turn to Jesus as their promised Messiah – from princes and priests to boys and girls. And in response to this, God will fulfill His blessing and restore all the Promised Land to them, a land flowing with milk and honey. And He assures them from that point forward they would never again be put to shame as a nation.

Paul acknowledges God is not finished with Israel in Romans 11 as he paints a picture of God’s rich, rooted plan to reach out to the world with hope and love, in spite of humanity’s wholesale rejection of Him. He instructs the church at Rome, and all believers of the church who would follow, that God has indeed cut off Israel from being His primary instrument to reach out to the world with God’s image, love and hope, but He makes the point that this is temporary, not permanent, and He will once again use Israel as His primary missionary force in the world.

This last promise is expanded on in Revelation 4-18 where we see the nation of Israel as the primary mission force in the world through the 144,000 witnesses (12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel), who will lead innumerable people to faith in Christ, from every nation, tribe and tongue.

God has indeed blessed the nation Israel with the birth of the Jewish-born Messiah, Jesus Christ (as seen in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and He has blessed the whole world through this incarnation. It is still promised that God will use them as the greatest missionaries the world has ever seen (Revelation 7:4-9). The nation Israel is still alive and well in God’s prophetic promised future. He is not finished with Israel yet.

Prophecy: Why Study Prophecy

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When I was a senior in high school I saw a book on my dad’s bookshelf titled, The Millennium. I asked him what it was about and he said, “You’re too young to understand. Maybe someday we can talk about it.” It didn’t take long to realize my dad’s response was code for, “I don’t have a clue what it’s about and I sure can’t explain it.”

I remember hearing other adults speak about future things. There were some common themes: It’s too hard to understand. It’s not that important. It doesn’t really matter. I guess we’ll find out in the end.

Contrast those statements with the words spoken to Daniel regarding the meaning and understanding of the prophecies he had proclaimed, “…many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.” When Daniel pressed for more answers, he was told, “…none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand” (Daniel 12:4,10). God wants us to understand. Even in The Revelation, admonitions are given to listen carefully and pay attention to what is being said of the future (Revelation 1:3, 22:7).

Those words to Daniel and John are compelling to me. Is God saying that as time progresses these prophecies will become clearer and clearer, and those who spend time studying these prophecies will increase in understanding? It seems that is a major part of what God is conveying to Daniel, and I have found it to be true in my own life. Every time I study a prophetic passage, I make new and clearer discoveries.

There are some common dangers of delving into the study of the future. It can merely become an academic adventure, or it can become an obsession to salve our curiosity. Some can watch the news and see the end of the world just around the corner from every world event.

Yet there are a number of very good values in studying what the Bible teaches about future things. It helps us look at the world more through God’s eyes and less like the rest of the world. It helps us see the progression of evil before it happens. It reminds us that there is a spiritual battle going on in this world, and we are reminded that in the end, God wins! Believers win! Sin and its impact on us and the rest of the world will be done away with. It gives us hope with pictures of no pain, no suffering, no tears. God has a plan and it is ultimately for good (Revelation 21:4).

Near the end of my years in seminary I learned another good reason for understanding prophecy. My wife and I were among four couples who would have a professor and his wife over for dinner and get to know them while picking their brains for crumbs of wisdom that might impact our own lives. One of those professors we invited was the president of the seminary, Dr. John F. Walvoord, who has long been recognized for his study and writing in the field of prophecy.

One of our friends asked Dr. Walvoord, “Why have you devoted so much of your life studying and writing about prophecy?” The sage among us paused and then responded with words very close to these, “Well, I’ve lived and learned enough at this point in my life to recognize that prophecy is often the crucial turning point for many students of Scripture. It can be the place where many begin to compromise the way they interpret the whole Bible.”

That was a totally unexpected answer. As we pressed for clarity, he told us story after story of students, professors, theologians and pastors who once had a solid way of interpreting the meaning of the biblical texts but then went away from that when it came to prophecy. They might say prophecy should be interpreted in a different way than other Bible literature. It’s all allegorical or figurative, generalized statements that don’t really mean what they say. They couldn’t believe those kinds of things could happen today. It didn’t fit their preconceived ideas or a predetermined theology.

Then he related how these once solid students of Scripture eventually began to compromise how they interpreted other parts of Scripture. And over time they either abandoned the faith altogether or compromised their theology so it would fit what they wanted the Scriptures to say. Personal beliefs and theological presuppositions became the source of authoritative truth for them, rather than the Scriptures themselves. But how we handle prophetic literature in the Bible will eventually dictate how we interpret all of Scripture.

This series is a glimpse into my study of prophecy over the last 40+ years. I will make no claims that I have it all figured out. I will do my best to let the Scriptures be the authoritative source of truth. Not my theology. Not my preconceived ideas. Not my idea of what seems plausible. Not my fears of what others will think. I hope you will be challenged, as I have, to be one who understands more and more, to listen carefully and studiously, and pay attention so we can respond appropriately to what God is doing progressively in His overall plan.