Leadership Empowerment School of Ministry
Empowering Those who Empower Others with a Knowledge of God and His Ways
Introduction: The Last Days
The Scriptures which have to do with the 'end times' can be very confusing. There are many different opinions about what various passages mean, and about the significance of historical events. In this course, we will attempt to offer a Biblical guideline to this important topic. We will not attempt to give details concerning what is or may happen in the Middle East at this time. Our purpose will be to present the Biblical teaching in such a way that the student will be free to take up his own position -- but also so that he will be able to be consistent in his interpretation. On different topics, we will present more than one commonly held view, so that the student can be exposed to various ways of looking at the material.
1. The Kingdom of God
A. Jesus proclaimed that in Him God's Kingdom has come
1. See Matt 3:2, 4:7, 12:25-28; Mk 1:15
2. The Kingdom is within you -- Lk 17:20-21
B. God's Kingdom has not yet come in fullness
1. The wicked will be separated from the righteous -- Matt 13:47-50, 25:31-46
2. We are waiting for the King to come -- Matt 25:1-13, 14-30
3. The old will pass away, and we will be with God -- Rev 21:1-4
C. The Kingdom of God is 'already, but not yet'
1. Benefits and blessings come, but not fully
2. Already forgiven, not yet perfected
3. Live in the Spirit, live in the world (where Satan attacks)
4. Victory over death, still die
2. The last days
A. Time when the Kingdom has come, but is still being waited for
B. We have been in the last days since the Day of Pentecost
-- Acts 2:14-21; 1 Jn 2:18
C. The end of the age
God's Kingdom comes in fullness -- Matt 13:37-43, 24:3, 28:20
3. Interpreting Biblical prophecy
A. Humility is needed
There are many different views regarding much of the prophecy in the Bible. Nobody can really claim to have all the answers. We may find that actual events do not happen just the way we expect them to from our understanding of prophecy. That is okay. Continue to trust in God and know that He is in control.
B. Double meanings
There are some prophecies in the Bible that are actually fulfilled more than once, in different times and different ways. Some of the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the life of Jesus were also fulfilled closer to their own time. Likewise, some prophecies which have been fulfilled in one way will still be fulfilled in another way in the last days.
C. Numbers in prophecy
When numbers are used in prophecy, there are always different interpretations. Are they to be taken literally, just as they are? (As in Jer 25:11, where the Jews were promised to return from exile after 70 years). Or, are they symbolic? Some numbers represent fullness, etc. Whichever view is taken, it is best to not be dogmatic, because many such ideas have proven to be false.
The Second Coming of Christ
Of all the issues that are included in the study of the 'last things,' the second coming of Jesus Christ is the most definite and important fact. All Christians accept that Jesus will come again. It is the hope that we look forward to, and long for.
1. Facts about the second coming
A. It is definite -- it is a sure thing that it will happen
See: Matt 24:30, 26:64; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thess 4:15-16; 2 Thess 1:7; Heb 9:28; Jam 5:7-8; 2 Pet 3:12; 1 Jn 2:28
B. The time of His coming is not known
-- Matt 24:36-44; Mk 13:32-37; Act 1:7
C. It will be visible -- all will see it: Matt 24:25-30; Rev 1:7
D. It will be unexpected
1. There are some signs that will come first (see Matt 24:14-31)
2. In spite of this, many will be surprised
-- Matt 25:1-13; 2 Pet 3:3-4
3. It will happen quickly, so that there will be no time to prepare once it comes -- Matt 25:8-10
2. One Coming or two? Different views
A. Two Comings
This view teaches that Christ will come once for the Church (known as the rapture), and then again with the Church. All Scriptures dealing with Christ's next coming relate to one or the other of these two events. Generally, the rapture is expected to happen either before or during the tribulation, and the final coming is to happen after the tribulation. At the rapture, only believers will see the Lord. At His final coming, all will see Him. This final coming is when He will defeat the devil and begin His thousand year reign on earth. See Chapter 3 for more about the great tribulation and the millennium.
B. One Coming
Jesus will come one time, at the end of the tribulation. There will be no secret rapture, when only believers see Him. He will come once to receive His own, defeat the devil, and begin His millennial reign on earth.
3. Could the second coming happen at any time?
A. This partly depends on whether He will come once or twice.
If He is going to rapture the Church before the tribulation, then it could happen at any time. All the prophecies could still happen during the tribulation before He comes again. However, if He is going to come only at the end of the tribulation, then we can expect certain things to take place before He comes.
B. Some Biblical signs that will happen before the return of Christ (see also Mk 13, and Lk 21)
1. Wars, famines, and earthquakes... 'the beginning of birth pains.' Matt 24:6-8
2. Tribulation and persecution of believers Matt 24:9-10, 21-22
3. False messiahs and prophets will deceive many Matt 24:4-5, 11, 23-26
4. The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all nations
5. The 'abomination that causes desolation' in the holy place
6. Sun and moon darkened, stars falling, heavens shaken
7. The seals: a conqueror, war, famine, much death, persecution of believers, heavenly disturbances Rev 6
8. The trumpets: hail and blood, part of sea turning to blood, water made bitter, sun and stars darkened, army of locusts to torment non-believers, a great army kills many Rev 8
9. The two beasts... rise of false god and prophets Rev 13
10. The bowls of God's wrath: sores on unbelievers, sea turned to blood, water turned to blood, people burned by the heat of the sun, darkness and pain, Euphrates river dried up, great earthquake and hail Rev 16
C. Interpreting the signs
1. Many of the above are already happening, and have been for a long time. However, there will be an increase of such things as the end approaches.
2. These signs will not reveal exactly when the Lord will return, but they are to help us be always watchful and ready
4. The Hope and expectation of the believer
-- Titus 2:13; 2 Tim 4:8; Rev 22:17
The attitude of believers about the return of the Lord is to be one of joyful expectation and hope. All our hope rests in the belief that He will come again, and make everything right. We eagerly look for it and wait for it. We cry out, "Maranatha!" -- "Come, O Lord!"
5. Be watchful: Matt 24:32-51; Mk 13:28-37; Lk 21:29-36
We are called upon and warned over and over in the Scriptures to be watchful -- to be ready for the return of Jesus. How are we to be ready? By living lives that please Him. Many of Jesus' parables dealt with this issue, including:
· Leaves of the fig tree - Matt 24:32-35; Mk 13:28-31; Lk 21:29-31
· Householder and thief - Matt 24:42-44; Lk 12:39-40
· Watching servants - Matt 24:45-51; Mk 13:33-37; Lk 12:35-38, 42-46
· Ten virgins - Matt 25:1-13
The Millennium and the Great Tribulation
1. The Millennium
And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
-- Rev 20:1-6
The millennium refers to the rule of Christ on earth for one thousand years. It takes place when Satan is bound. Following this time, he will be released and again wage a war against God's Kingdom. He will be defeated with his army, and will be cast into the lake of fire forever (Rev 20:7-10).
2. Millennial views
1. This is the belief that Jesus will come back physically after the millennium. It is based on the idea that the preaching of the Gospel will be so successful that the world will be converted. Thus, the thousand year reign of Christ will take place through the Church in the hearts of believers.
2. According to the parables of the mustard seed and yeast (Matt 13:31-33), the Kingdom of God begins small, and then expands. You may not even be able to tell how or when the millennium begins, but in it God's Kingdom will continue to grow in influence and strength.
3. The millennium is a long period of time in which Christ reigns over the earth, although He is not physically present. It is an optimistic view of history, believing that things on earth will get better and better before the return of the Lord.
This view states that the passage quoted above is symbolic of the Church age, in which we now live. Christ reigns now over His Church through the hearts of His faithful followers.
1. This is the belief that Jesus will return first and then establish His millennial reign on earth. He will be present physically, and His rule will be one of blessing and peace for the whole world. This passage does not specifically say it will take place on earth, though many believe that it will.
2. Note in the passage above there are two resurrections. The first is for those "who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God," and who had not served the beast. 'Beheaded' may refer to all martyrs.
a. Who exactly will come to life and reign with Christ? One view says it will be all believers, from all times. Another view is a more literal interpretation of the passage -- that it will be only those who have been martyred.
b. The second resurrection will be for all people who were not raised the first time, and it will come after the millennium. After this everyone who has ever lived will stand before the great white throne to be judged.
3. During the millennium, there will be perfect peace and harmony. This will even be true in nature (see Isa 11:6-9, 65:25 and Rom 8:19-23).
4. Things on earth will not get better before the return of Christ; in fact, they will get worse. Just before His return to establish the millennium, the world will experience seven years of the 'great tribulation.'
* Note: For the remainder of these notes, the premillennial view will be assumed.
3. The Tribulation
For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-- and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened -- Matt 24:21-22
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-- all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear. -- Rev 13:5-9
A. What is the tribulation?
The tribulation is a period of time in which the people of the world suffer greatly. It comes right before the return of Christ to establish His millennial reign. During this time, the devil is desperately fighting against the saints of God (Rev 11-13). It is also a time when the people of the earth who reject God experience His wrath.
B. Seven years of the tribulation
1. Dan 7:25: This passage is an explanation of the fourth beast of Daniel's vision (see Dan 7:1-14). The fourth beast represents a kingdom which is to rise up and dominate the earth. This 'beast' fights against God's people, and "the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time."
2. Dan 9:24-27: Prophecy of the 'seventy weeks'
a. The weeks (sometimes translated simply as 'sevens') are often interpreted as years -- thus the prophecy is about 70 'weeks of years.' 70 times 7 years comes to 490 years.
b. Another view does not take the number literally, but simply to mean seven lifetimes of punishment -- just as Jesus did not mean we are to forgive exactly 490 times ('seventy times seven times'), but to keep on forgiving (Matt 18:22).
c. Historical fulfillment: Many see the fulfillment of this prophecy in the time of the Jewish revolt against her oppressors (known as the Maccabean revolt). There was a wicked ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes who blasphemed God and set up an altar of Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the temple (the 'abomination that causes desolation').
d. Some see the final 'seven' of the 70 (v 27) as still to come in the future. As such, it refers to the period of the great tribulation.
3. Rev 11:2-6: The holy city (Jerusalem) will be 'trampled on' for 42 months (3 1/2 years, or half of 7 years). For the same period of time, two witnesses will prophesy and strike the earth with plagues.
4. Rev 12:6, 14: A woman is chased by the devil, and God protects her in the desert for 1,260 days (3 1/2 years). Again, she is taken care of for 'a time, times, and half a time' (v 14).
5. Rev 13:5: A beast comes out of the sea, and is given authority by the dragon (the devil). He has authority for 42 months (3 1/2 years).
C. Two parts of the tribulation
1. As you can see in the above scriptures, the Bible often refers to a time period of 3 1/2 years. This could show that the tribulation will be divided into two parts.
2. In Dan 9:27, it speaks of the evil ruler making a covenant for one week (seven years?), but in the middle of the week he stops the sacrifices in the temple and sets up the 'abomination of desolation.' Many see this as a covenant between Antichrist and the Jewish nation, which the Antichrist breaks after 3 1/2 years.
3. If the above interpretation of Dan 9:27 is correct, then the many references to 3 1/2 years have to do with either the first or the second half of the tribulation. During the first half many believe Israel (or Jewish believers) will be safe from the devil's attack, but then in the second half things will become very bad for them.
D. The Rapture
According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 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. 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. Therefore encourage each other with these words.
-- 1 Thess 4:15-18
1. The rapture refers to what happens to believers who are alive at the time of the Lord's return. After the dead in Christ are raised, those who are still alive will meet the Lord in the air.
2. This passage does not answer the question of what happens next. Does Jesus then return to heaven with the believers, or do they come to earth together at that time to begin the millennial reign?
3. The resurrection mentioned here may be the same as the 'first resurrection' of Rev 20:4-5. If so, it gives support to the idea that all believers will be raised before the millennium (see the above discussion about two resurrections and the premillennial view).
4. Tribulation views
There are different views about when the rapture or the return of Christ will occur in relation to the tribulation. Some common views are discussed below:
1. Jesus will return to rapture believers before the tribulation, saving Christians from experiencing this awful time.
2. At the rapture, Jesus will not descend all the way to the earth. He will meet His people in the clouds, and then return to heaven. Many see this as being a secret event, such that non-believers do not actually see it happen. However, the description in 1 Thess 4:15-18 appears to describe an event which is more noticeable.
3. Jesus' return will be in two parts:
a. First, He will return part way to rapture the Church
b. Secondly, He will return with the Church after the tribulation to establish the millennium.
4. There will be tribulation saints. These are people who will come to Christ during the tribulation. They will endure all that takes place during that time, and many will die as martyrs.
5. There will be three different resurrections.
a. the righteous dead at the time of the rapture
b. saints who die in the tribulation before the millennium
c. unbelievers, at the end of the millennium
6. The 'elect' spoken of in Matt 24 who endure the tribulation are either Jews, tribulation saints, or Jewish believers.
7. Support for the 'pretrib' view
a. "God has not destined us to wrath..." see 1 Thess 1:10, 5:9
b. The Bible teaches that the Lord could come back at any moment, and we are to be watchful. This would not be the case of we can expect seven years of tribulation first. There will be no warning (Matt 24:36-51, 25:13).
c. We are waiting for the 'blessed hope' (Titus 2:13). This could only be the case if the next major event we are looking for is the return of Christ. If the tribulation is to come first, we would have dread, not hope.
1. Jesus will return for His people after the tribulation. In fact, His return will be the event which ends this time of distress.
2. When the rapture happens, believers will meet the Lord in the air, and then immediately return to earth with Him and begin the millennium.
3. The term 'elect' in Matt 24 refers to the Church.
4. During the tribulation, believers will experience hardship and the wrath of the devil, but they will not experience the wrath of God. That is for the devil and unbelievers only.
5. There will be two resurrections
a. the righteous dead at the end of the tribulation
b. unbelievers at the end of the millennium
6. Jesus will not return at any moment, but the events of the tribulation could begin at any time. After everything prophesied about the tribulation takes place, believers will look for the Lord to return at any time.
7. Support for the 'posttrib' view
a. The Bible is clear that believers will endure hard times. They will not experience God's wrath, but they will suffer greatly (Matt 24:9, 21, 29; Mk 13:19, 24; Jn 16:33; Acts 14:22; Rom 5:3; 1 Thess 3:3; 1 Jn 2:18, 22, 4:3; 2 Jn 7; Rev 7:14).
b. Jesus told His disciples to pray for strength "to escape all these things" (Lk 21:36 -- see also Rev 3:10). The word 'escape' here means 'to escape out of the midst of.' Thus, we can expect to be kept in tribulation, but not from it. We will escape eternal suffering, but will have to endure temporal suffering.
c. Meeting the Lord in the air (1 Thess 4:17). The same word for meet is used at other times to picture people going to meet someone, and then returning together to where they started from. See Matt 25:6, where the virgins go out to meet the bridegroom, and then return with him to the wedding banquet. In Acts 28:15, believers came out from Rome to meet Paul -- and then return with him to Rome.
d. Jesus said, "When you see all these things, know that it is near -- at the very doors" (Matt 24:33). From this passage it would seem that there will be specific things that will happen (tribulation) just before He returns. When these things come to pass, Christians are to know that Jesus is about to come -- though they will not know the particular day.
1. Jesus will return to rapture believers during the tribulation, saving Christians from experiencing the worst part of it.
2. Like the pretrib view, midtrib says that Jesus' return will be in two parts, and that there will be three resurrections. They also agree that believers will be saved from passing through the most horrible time of human history.
3. Like the posttrib view, midtrib says believers will experience tribulation but not God's wrath, and that Jesus' return will not happen at any moment.
4. Another version of this view is that not all believers will be raptured at the same time. Only believers who are truly spiritual will be raptured. Thus, 'carnal' Christians will have to endure the tribulation. Some go on to say that whenever a group of believers in the tribulation has become spiritual, they will be raptured.
5. Support for the 'midtrib' view:
a. Believers will not experience the 'wrath of God' -- which some believe to be the last part of the tribulation. They say the first part of the tribulation represents the devil's attacks, whereas the last part is God's judgment on unbelievers.
b. Like the posttrib view, this one takes into account Scriptures which warn that believers will experience suffering. But on the other hand, like the pretrib view, it agrees that the Lord will deliver His people from the worst of the world's troubles.
Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. -- 1 John 2:18
And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?"
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-- all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear. -- Rev 13:1-9
A. The word 'Antichrist' -- see 1 Jn 2:18-22, 4:1-3; 2 Jn 7
The above scriptures are the times the word 'Antichrist' is used in the Bible. They give the idea that many antichrists are in the world, from the time of John even to the present. Antichrist is defined as any spirit which 'does not acknowledge Jesus' (1 Jn 4:3). See also Matt 24:23-26.
B. The Antichrist
Many Christians have come to believe that there will be a person (or government or organization) in the last days which totally represents the idea of Antichrist. Though there have been many antichrists, this one will be so more terribly and more completely. In fact, he will be strongly connected to Satan himself.
C. Other possible references to the last days Antichrist
1. Dan 8:9-12, 19-25; 9:25-27: Daniel's prophecies had fulfillment in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes in the years 175-164 BC. However, Antiochus is often viewed as a type of the final Antichrist to come. This prophecy shows his pride and his hatred for the people of God. It is also similar to other passages which speak of this evil ruler conquering God's people.
2. 2 Thess 2:3-12: This passage speaks of 'the man of sin,' 'the son of perdition,' and 'the lawless one,' all referring to the same person. Paul teaches that Christ will not return until this person is revealed. This man of sin opposes God and His people, and sets himself up to be God. Something is currently restraining him, which the readers of this letter knew (v 6). Some possible suggestions for what this restraining force could be include:
a. the Holy Spirit. c. the Jewish nation
b. the Church. d. the Roman government, or system. . of government
3. Rev 11:7; 13:1-18; 16:12-14; 17:1-18; 19:19-21
a. Revelation describes a beast which comes out of the sea. It resembles the four beasts of Dan 7 put together in one. It had a deadly wound which was healed, and receives authority from the dragon (the devil). He makes war on the saints and overcomes them. All non-Christians will worship him and the dragon.
b. The beast will kill the two witnesses (11:7).
c. "Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666" (13:18). Some languages (such as Greek and Hebrew) had no written numbers, so letters were given the value of a number. Therefore, it is possible to add up the value of the letters of the beast's name in one of these languages, and the total will be 666.
d. The beast has seven heads which are symbols for seven hills (a clear reference to Rome, which rested on seven hills) and seven kings. Five kings are in the past, one was living at the time of John, and one was still yet to come. At the time of the Revelation, there had been five Roman Emperors (not counting three who fought over the throne for less than two years). The current one was Vespasian, who was followed by Titus, who reigned for only two years. The beast himself is the eighth, and he is 'of the seven' (17:3, 9-11).
e. The beast also has ten horns. These are ten kings who 'have received no kingdom as yet' (17:12). These ten kings make war with the Lamb, and they also destroy the harlot. This refers to rulers who will be allies with and dependent on the beast.
f. In the end, the beast is "cast alive into the lake of burning fire with brimstone" (19:20).
D. The false prophet -- Rev 13:11-18, 16:12-14, 19:19-21
The devil apparently forms an unholy trinity, including the dragon, the beast from the sea (Antichrist), and the beast from the earth (the false prophet). Some of his activities include:
1. causes people to worship the first beast (Antichrist)
2. performs miracles, and deceives people with them
3. sets up an image of the beast to be worshipped (those who refuse are killed) -- possibly Daniel's 'abomination that causes desolation'
4. causes all to receive a mark on their hand or forehead, which they need in order to buy or sell
E. The spirit of antichrist
1. As we have already seen, the spirit of antichrist is presently at work in the world today, and there are in fact many antichrists.
2. The Scriptures speak of the Antichrist setting up an image in the temple (the abomination of desolation), and proclaiming himself to be God.
3. Here is a practical application of that idea... The Bible teaches that we believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit today. He is present in us, and He reigns in us. This is what the spirit of antichrist seeks to do: To set up the false god of 'self' in the temple of God, which is you. The antichrist is one which "does not acknowledge Jesus" (1 Jn 4:3). When you reign in your own life, refusing to acknowledge Jesus, you are also being influenced by the spirit of antichrist. Christ gave Himself completely for us; anything selfish is therefore anti-Christ (against Christ).
Some Apocalyptic Biblical Passages
1. Ezekiel 38-39: Gog and Magog
A. Location of Magog (Gog seems to be the people, coming from Magog)
1. Scholars are unsure of the exact location of this place. However, the other places mentioned with it (Meshech and Tubal) are known to be in Asia Minor (around modern Turkey). Thus, it seems likely that Magog could be in the same general area.
2. Some see in this the land of Russia, because of the description 'the far North' (38:15).
B. Attack on Israel
A number of armies, led by Gog, attack Israel while Israel is at peace, not expecting war ('a land of unwalled villages' -- 38:11). They are actually led to do this by God Himself, though they do not realize it (38:4, 16). He brings them against Israel so that they will honor Him (when they see His power), and then the nations will come to know God (38:16). It is a mighty army, but they are defeated when God acts directly against them (38:18-23). The attacking armies will be completely defeated and buried in Israel (ch 39).
C. The time of this attack
1. There is no historical event that fits the description of this battle. It is therefore likely something that is still to happen in the future.
2. Some believe this will be an attack against Israel before the tribulation, but near the time of the end. If that is the case, it seems that there will be peace in the Middle-East (Israel and surrounding nations) at some point in the future.
3. Others see this as being the battle of Rev 20:7-10, which takes place after the millennium. In that passage, Gog and Magog are again mentioned in relation to a great army that Satan gathers. This army marches against Israel, but is defeated when fire falls from heaven and consumes them. After that the devil is thrown into the lake of fire to stay forever.
2. Daniel 7: Four Beasts (vision: 7:1-14; interpretation: 7:15-27)
A. The vision
Daniel sees four beasts rising up out of the water. These beasts represent four kingdoms: First: Babylon; Second: Medo-Persia (or Media); Third: Greece (or Persia); Fourth: Rome (or Greece). The fourth beast was different from the others, and had ten horns. Another horn, a smaller one, came up among the ten, and replaced three of them. This horn had "eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words" (v 8). The fourth beast was killed.
B. The fourth beast and its ten horns
1. A clear interpretation of this text is difficult. The interpretation usually depends on a person's view of the end times. It is possible that this small horn refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, or to Antichrist, or to both. Others see it as one of the Roman emperors.
2. The saints of God are given into the hands of this small horn "for a time and times and half a time" (v 25). He will try to "change times and law" (v 25), meaning that he will try to stop the religious duties of the people of God.
3. The ten horns remind us of the beast of Rev 17 (Antichrist), with its ten horns also representing ten kings. In Rev 13:5-7, the beast from the sea is given authority for 42 months, and has power to conquer the saints of God. Again, this is similar to the beast of Daniel's vision.
3. Matthew 24: Prophecy of Jesus (see also Mark 13; Luke 21)
A. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple
This happened in the year 70 AD, less than 40 years after the prophecy was given. Jesus' followers took careful note of His warning, and many fled Jerusalem in time to be saved from the Roman army. Luke replaces 'the abomination that causes desolation' with: 'when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies...' (Lk 21:20). The abomination referred to was likely the destruction carried out by this army.
B. The return of Christ
Jesus described many things that will take place before His return. Much of this prophecy may relate both to Jerusalem's destruction and Christ's return. Certainly 27-51 have to do with the end of the age. This description is similar to the seals of Rev 6. His overall message is to endure whatever may come until the end, and to be prepared for His coming by remaining faithful to Him.
4. Images in Revelation
Revelation 7:1-8, 14:1-4: The 144,000 of Israel
A. Two views as to who the 144,000 are
1. 'Spiritual Israel' -- the faithful remnant of Israel plus the Church. This view says that 144,000 is a symbol of completeness (12,000 from 12 tribes). This number represents all who are redeemed.
2. Physical Jews during the tribulation -- This is a special band of exactly 144,000 Jews who witness for Christ during the tribulation, and who are protected from harm. Other witnesses will be martyred.
B. Sealed (7:3)
Sealed here means to protect. Some hold that they are protected from God's wrath, but not from the persecution of Antichrist. Others say they will be protected even from the tribulation and death.
Again, there are different views as to what this means. They could be physical virgins (if you take the view that they are actual Jews during the tribulation). Or, they could be people who are sexually pure in that they have not committed fornication or adultery. Finally, they may be spiritually pure -- they have not committed spiritual adultery through worshipping other gods.
Revelation 11:1-13: The two Witnesses
A. 'The two olive trees and the two lampstands' (11:4)
This is a reference to Zech 3-4. In that passage, the prophecy about the lampstand and olive trees related to Zerubbabel and Joshua. Zerubbabel was governor in Jerusalem, and Joshua the high priest after the exile when the people returned and built the temple.
B. Moses and Elijah
The witnesses are also often compared with a latter day Moses and Elijah. Like Elijah, they kill enemies with fire, and cause it not to rain for three and a half years. Like Moses, they turn water to blood and strike the earth with plagues.
C. The ministry of the witnesses
Some say these represent all witnessing believers in the tribulation. Others that two specific people are intended. In any case, they perform signs and preach that people should repent. The world hates them, and rejoice when they die. However, they are resurrected, and people fear God.
Revelation 12:1-17: The Woman with Child and War in Heaven
A. The woman and her children
1. This is apparently a symbol of faithful Israel, which gave birth to the Messiah (the child). The devil tried to kill the child, but God protected him. This is a picture of the birth of Christ, when the devil (through Herod) tried to kill Him.
2. The woman continues to represent those Jews who accepted Christ. During the first century, they were protected from the Roman invasion when they fled to the wilderness (v 14) in response to Jesus' prophecy (see Matt 24).
3. Her other children are Gentile believers, who were being persecuted (v 17).
4. This prophecy may also deal with end time events. God's people will be persecuted by the devil, but He will protect them. Perhaps it is the 144,000 Jews that are protected (or national Israel), while the devil makes war on the Gentile believers. In any case, believers in the last days can expect to experience Satan's fury. However, in Christ we can overcome (even through death).
B. The War in Heaven (Two views)
1. This is a picture of something that happened in the past -- possibly through the work of Christ on earth or earlier. Jesus "saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven" (Lk 10:18).
2. This will happen during the tribulation, perhaps half-way through it. It will begin a time of the most severe tribulation the world has known.
Revelation 17-18: The Harlot
A. The harlot is Babylon, which was used to describe Rome -- see 17:9, 18
At the time of the Revelation, the city of Rome was the great enemy of the Church.
B. She also may represent a last days power which is an enemy to God's people.
1. Just as Rome was the enemy of God's people at the time of John, so will there be a great last days power which opposes them. She will gain influence through the beast, but the beast and his ten kings will eventually turn against her. She represents self-indulgence and all kinds of sin.
2. Many people have tried to discover the exact identity of the end times harlot, and their are many different views. Some which have been suggested include: a) some kind of humanistic world religion sponsored by the Antichrist; b) some Protestants have seen it as the Roman Catholic Church; c) an end-time government or leading nation; d) a group of nations e) an influential city -- perhaps the capital city of the beast's kingdom
The Final End
1. Judgment: Rev 20:11-15
A. There is a day coming when all people will be judged -- Heb 9:27; Acts 17:31; 2 Pet 3:7
This judgment is not to determine the spiritual condition of people (God already knows that), but to make it known to the entire world.
B. This judgment is for both the righteous and the unrighteous -- Rom 2:5-10; 2 Cor 5:10
C. This judgment will take place after the return of Christ -- Matt 16:27; 1 Cor 4:5
D. Some parables about the judgment
1. Parable of the weeds: Matt 13:24-30, 37-43
2. Sheep and goats: Matt 25:31-46
3. Rich fool: Lk 12:16-21
E. Jesus is the judge -- Jn 5:22; Acts 10:42
F. Angels will also be judged -- 2 Pet 2:4 Jud 6
G. The judgment is final and the outcome will remain for all eternity -- Matt 25:46; Lk 16:19-31
A. Biblical pictures
1. Eternal fire -- Matt 25:41
2. Outer darkness -- Matt 8:12
3. Eternal torment -- Rev 14:10-11
4. The second death -- Rev 21:8
5. Removed from the presence of God -- 2 Thess 1:9
B. Different degrees of punishment -- Matt 11:21-24; Lk 12:447-48
C. All who do not accept Christ will go there (Rev 20:11-15)
A. The name given for the place where God dwells -- Matt 5:16, 6:9, 7:11, 10:32, 18:14
B. We shall know God and be like Him -- 2 Jn 3:2
C. No more evil of any kind -- Rev 21:4
D. A place of great glory and light -- Rev 21:23
E. A place of rest -- Heb 4:9-11
This does not mean that we will do nothing, but that we will be at rest from all our concerns and problems and anxieties.
F. Worship -- Rev 4:8-11, 5:8-14, 7:9-12, 11:15-19, 15:1-4, 19:1-6
Throughout the book of Revelation, heaven is shown as a place of worship. No matter what is going on in the world, there is always a time for worshipping God. In heaven this will surely be one of our main activities -- and it will be filled with more joy and strength than the best of worship times we enjoy on earth.
G. Service -- we will continue to serve God -- Rev 22:3
H. Rewards -- Lk 19:11-27; 1 Cor 3:10-15
It appears that there will be different rewards in heaven, depending on how we live our lives on earth. These rewards are based on what we did with the gifts and opportunities God has given us. The way we serve and minister on earth will effect the way we live for eternity.
I. A picture of the future home of the righteous -- read Rev 21-22
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever..
-- Rev 21:1-4, 22:1-5
What Christians Need to Know About the End Times
1. The Return of Christ
A. He is definitely going to return physically -- Jn 14:3; Acts 1:11
B. The date is not known -- Matt 24:36; Acts 1:7
It is very important for Christians to not be deceived by people who claim to know the date of the end. Many such people have come, and they have all been wrong. See Matt 24:23-27.
C. We are to be prepared at all times: Matt 24:43-51, 25:1-13
The way we are prepared is by being faithful to Him. We want Him to find us doing what He commanded when He returns.
D. It is nothing to fear, but a great day for believers Jn 14:1-3; Titus 2:13; Rev 22:17
A. Whether or not we must pass through the 'great tribulation,' there will be hard times for believers until Jesus returns
-- Jn 16:1-4, 33
B. It is necessary to endure during such times, and not turn from Christ -- Heb 10:32-39
C. Jesus has not forsaken us during tribulation, but He is with us through it -- Matt 28:20
A. The spirit of antichrist is present in the world today
B. We must be on guard against its influence in our own lives
C. We do not need to fear anyone other than God Himself
-- Lk 12:4-7
D. Be sure to not be deceived by false teachers and prophets -- Mk 13:22; 2 Pet 2:1-2
A. All those who do not accept Christ will spend eternity in Hell -- Jn 14:6; Rev 20:11-15
This should motivate us to be very serious about our own spiritual condition (Phil 2:12). In addition to this, it should motivate us to share the Gospel with the lost. Knowing that their eternal destiny is at stake, we need to take evangelism seriously (2 Cor 5:11).
B. Those who do accept Christ have heaven to look forward to -- Rev 21-22
5. God's Sovereignty and Victory
A. Whatever happens in history, God is in control
This does not mean that everything that happens in the world is what He wants to happen, because He has given freedom to man. However, we can be assured that nothing is out of His control except those things that He for His own reasons and in His own wisdom intends to be played out in the arena of the exercise of free will. At no time is the devil too strong for Him!
B. We do not need to know exactly everything that is going to happen. We must simply trust God.
C. In the end, God will be victorious over all His enemies
D. Those who are faithful will share in His victory -- Rev 22:5