The Crisis at the Close of This Age
Non-Christians—and today even many professing Christians—scoff at the idea of the prophesied intervention of Jesus Christ. “There have always been prophets of doom,” the skeptics say. “People thought the world was coming to an end in the Middle Ages when the Black Death struck Europe.”
These skeptics do not understand God’s timetable of prophecy. The end of man’s rule must, and will, come as God has scheduled it. Though some had ignorantly thought otherwise, the end of man’s rule was not due in the Middle Ages.
Every prophecy has a definite time setting—usually not in the prophet’s own day. Most prophecies of the Bible are for our time!
Jesus taught that there is a timetable of prophecy—that certain specific events must occur in the months and years before He returns to rescue humanity from annihilation. Let’s begin to understand these prophecies. Let’s learn exactly what the world’s greatest newscaster foretold for this end-time generation!
The Beginning of Sorrows
1. While sitting on the Mount of Olives, Christ’s disciples questioned Him about His Second Coming (Matthew 24:3). Did Jesus foretell that many deceivers would arise to deceive many people before His return? Verses 4-5, 11, 24.
2. What are these so-called ministers of Christ called elsewhere? Are they the ministers of the archdeceiver himself? 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. Are they themselves deceived—and is the whole world deceived as a result of their activities? Revelation 12:9.
3. What else did Christ say would occur in the end time besides the coming of many false prophets? Matthew 24:6-7.
Comment: The 20th century was the bloodiest in human history. World War i began in 1914 and claimed 8.5 million lives. Then World War ii resulted in 55 million deaths. Moreover, according to author and professor of political science R.J. Rummel, totalitarian governments slaughtered 170 million people for ethnic, racial, tribal, religious or political reasons. Nation has continued to rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. Just since World War ii alone, there have been over 225 armed conflicts in 148 countries! We are now fast approaching the third and final world war!
4. But are these events Jesus foretold only the beginning of sorrows? Matthew 24:7-8.
Comment: In addition to wars and false prophets, Jesus also foretold an increase in earthquakes, famines, and disease pandemics. This “beginning of sorrows” is also pictured by the first four “seals” of Revelation 6:1-8.
These four seals—what are commonly referred to as the four horsemen of the apocalypse—represent the four major world conditions Jesus said would exist at the end of this age—all increasing in severity and overlapping in their effects on the entire world!
The white horse represents the increasing number of false ministers preaching a false Christ and false ways to “salvation.” The red horse pictures the increasing tempo of the ravages of wars. The black horse—increasing famine. And the pale horse—rampaging diseases. For a more detailed description of these sorrows, request our free booklet The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
But let’s not forget that man is bringing this horrible suffering and death upon himself! Jesus knew that man, left to his own devices, would severely afflict himself and ultimately destroy all life—unless something totally unforeseen occurred to stop it. That is why He has promised to intervene in world affairs. Jesus Christ is coming soon to rescue the world from itself because man has reached the end of his rope!
The Great Tribulation
1. How is the fifth seal described? Revelation 6:9-11. What else did Jesus say about this time of religious persecution? Luke 21:12-17. What will happen to Judah and Jerusalem at this time? Verses 20-24.
At this point we need to understand the principle of prophetic duality. Many prophecies have a former, typical fulfillment, and then a final fulfillment in the end time. Some thought that Jerusalem’s destruction by the Gentile Roman armies in a.d. 70 was the fulfillment of this prophecy. But a.d. 70 was not “the end”! The presence of Roman armies in Jerusalem in a.d. 70 was only a type of what is to occur in the near future. The Roman legions that conquered Jerusalem then were only a type of modern legions that soon will again surge through the Middle East.
2. Will this future military action in the Middle East threaten to engulf the whole world? Matthew 24:15-21 (compare Luke 21:20).
3. Will this time that ensues—a time of unequaled strife and bloodshed involving weapons of modern warfare, called the Great Tribulation—threaten to utterly extinguish all life on Earth? Verse 22.
4. Who is responsible for inspiring this nightmarish time of tribulation on the whole world? Revelation 12:12. Why will the devil be extremely angry at this time? Same verse, last part.
Comment: This period of great tribulation is the time of Satan’s wrath. It will be unleashed not only on the Church of God, but also on the modern descendants of ancient Israel (request our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy to learn who those people are today) and on the whole world.
5. Does God promise to protect those who faithfully keep His Word and do His work? Revelation 3:7-8, 10.
6. A “woman” is sometimes used as a symbol for a church (see 2 Corinthians 11:1-2; Ephesians 5:23-32). Will God provide a place of safety for the end-time true Church where it will be protected from the devil? (the “dragon”—Revelation 12:9). Revelation 12:13-14.
Comment: This end-time prophecy shows that God’s faithful people will be taken to a place on Earth untouchable by Satan, protected from the devastation of the world around them. Regardless of where this place may be, God’s promise to take His obedient people there is sure!
However, some of God’s people will not receive this protection, and will have to experience this period of Satan’s wrath to wake them up spiritually (Revelation 3:14-19; 12:17). Request our free book Malachi’s Message for an in-depth scriptural explanation of this sobering truth.
Signs of God’s Intervention
1. How is the sixth seal described? Revelation 6:12-13. Where else are these events depicted? Matthew 24:29. How soon after the fifth seal is fulfilled does this occur? Same verse, first word.
Comment: The signs in heaven (the sixth seal) take place immediately after the fifth seal—the period known as the Great Tribulation.
2. Are these signs a warning that the “day of the Lord,” or the seventh seal—the time of God’s direct intervention to stop the destructive ways of man—is about to begin? Joel 2:30-31; Zephaniah 1:14-15, 18.
3. What is the reason for these punishments from God? Is it really a manifestation of God’s love for humanity? Notice the principle in Hebrews 12:5-8. To what purpose will God’s punishments be directed? 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9.
Comment: This “day of the Lord” is mentioned in over 30 prophecies in both the Old and New Testaments. Although a time of divine chastisement, this period culminates in the return of Jesus Christ to finally bring world peace!