Chapter 15: Digging deeper into prophecy
If we were to thoroughly cover every prophecy we can find in the Bible, in this book, and even if we were then to restrict this to those we deem to be especially significant prophecies, this would still end up as a very long book and it will take an inordinately long time to complete. If nothing else, this book is intended to encourage ordinary readers to study for themselves the Bible, in particular the prophets and what they prophesied, and provide a framework in which to do so.
It should be noted though, while many prophecies have not been covered in detail in this book, many have at least been touched on. By way of compromise, we have identified twelve Bible specific prophecies or groups of prophecies in this chapter, the author reckons significant, challenging and controversial (there are many more of course), and in many cases these have attracted alternative interpretations. Usually some of the content of a particular prophecy is also contained within another prophecy or when there is mention of the prophecy being fulfilled in some other scripture. The challenge for us is making the connections and joining the dots, mindful there will be those who know more than what we do and may disagree. With all this in mind and resisting the temptation of going down too many rabbit holes, the author has restricted himself to writing exactly a page on each of the twelve identified, trying to make sense of each and drawing out as much pertinent detail as the space restriction allows.
An important observation about Bible prophecy and how to approach it, at least from the author’s perspective, is we live in a day when knowledge of the Bible, even among Christians, is as poor as it has ever been, despite so many resources freely available. This is lamentable. And sadly, it does not stop there – knowledge of the prophetic scriptures is even weaker, despite predictive prophecy being more than one quarter of the Bible, having an important bearing on much of the rest of it. Even among saintly scholars and Christian leaders keen not to upset the apple cart, certain prophecies come into the “don’t go there” category, and those that do, often get it wrong. As far as the author, who has no reputation to protect or audience to appease is concerned, he is indignant that we live in a time when ordinary folk are dissuaded from searching the scriptures for themselves and may be patronised or worse if they do. What is suggested is check out prophecy, even no-go ones, humbly, holding hands up when we can’t make firm conclusions and to “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” 2Timothy 2:15. If this book encourages people to study the Bible for themselves, then that is a great result.
But what about the part played by Bible prophecy, especially what is yet to be fulfilled? A common approach is to consider prophecies relating to Christmas and Easter but not with the Second Coming and the Last Days, although often we see churches give emphasis to one or other group. For liberals, the focus may be on making the world a better place and prophecy outside what has a direct bearing may be discounted. For non-liberals, unless prophecy has clear interpretation, it may be shelved as an inconvenient distraction, although some like the Plymouth Brethren and USA Fundamentalists are really into things pertaining to the Second Coming of Jesus. Some may react, for example old men like the author who know their Bible, have had their day and can safely pontificate from their armchairs! Some may build a whole theology and world view around a narrow, controversial interpretation of selected prophecies, when the watchword should be balance.
Points the author would like to make are there is a lot he has still to come to a firm view and is why controversial subjects prominently feature in the examples selected. Sometimes, we are not meant to know precise interpretation other than what we need to know to operate as God’s servant for this present time. Sometimes, our interpretation will depend on our taking a view on certain matters where Christians disagree, like the Millennium, the Rapture and Israel. Sometimes, we may have a view on interpretation that may differ from others who are holy, knowledgeable and wise, but need to graciously agree to disagree. In following the history of prophetic interpretation, it is clear many have got it wrong. But at all times we should adopt the approach of the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” Acts 17:11.
All the prophecies chosen in some way relate to the Messiah and / or the Last Days. They have been chosen because they have been deemed problematic by some / many and, without over sticking his neck out regarding their interpretation or over pressing the links to other related prophecies, when not fully sure, what is written is to not only encourage readers to search the scriptures (and by that we mean closely examine the text and compare scripture with scripture, before going to learned commentaries) but also to make the point we can do so and still maintain a balanced, biblical stance. Those prophecies that fall into this category are usually regarded as unfulfilled, noting that some try to get round this by saying we should not expect them to be fulfilled or if they are to be, they cannot be taken literally (especially when it comes to Israel – that has been noted elsewhere have either been retracted or replaced by the Church). It is suggested the approach adopted in considering examples below could be adapted for any Bible study, and providing it is not an unhelpful distraction, can be a fruitful area for study.
One undertaking not covered is proving Bible prophecy is true, despite much hard evidence of evidence of their fulfilment. If we were to enquire along these lines, proof of fulfilled prophecy, is a powerful argument for Bible authenticity. 2,500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible, about 2,000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter. In most examples referred to in the rest of this chapter, the prophecies have yet to be fully fulfilled, and to do so requires the coming of the Messiah (for a second time), but arguably if all the Bible prophets are genuine, as we here claim, we ought to expect all these to be in due course.
One more caveat: besides expecting prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled to be fulfilled, even if we don’t know when, is that it will be done so literally, unless that is obviously not the case, including a glorious future for Israel living in its restored messianic kingdom reigned over by the Messiah. This subject has long divided Bible scholars. While not wanting to assign labels or disrespect those with different views, the author’s view (just from these studies) is many scriptures point to Israel (the people) gathered to the land promised to Abraham and living in peace and prosperity, and it has not been replaced by the Church. As for the actuality / timing of the Rapture, the author is in the not made up his mind camp. Another area of dispute that should be recognised, concerns the sequence and details of end time events just prior to and following the Second Coming.
Before introducing the twelve “one pagers”, let us return to the question: why study prophecy and, in particular, unfulfilled prophecy? The author has already provided several reasons, not least as it is a significant part of the Bible, and if God thought it important enough to put it there then who are we to argue? He has also noted that, at least from his experience, the study of the prophets is a particular interest of but a minority of Christians, notably old men like him who have had their day and in their day were trail blazers and go getters. Whether one is a “conservative” with a fixation on personal holiness, doctrinal purity, getting people “saved” or a “liberal” with a fixation on social justice, equality and diversity, helping the poor (all, incidentally, having their place) even though there seems more than enough to get one’s teeth into without being over bothered trying to understand prophecy, we are beholden to declare the whole counsel of God.
While it may be an over-simplification, after the first century AD (when the New Testament canon closed), until about two hundred years ago, an in-depth study of unfulfilled prophecy seemed not to have taken place or had been spiritualised, and when it was the leading pundits at the time seemed rather beholden to what was going on at the time, leading one now to think with the benefit of hindsight their pontifications were rather foolish. The world has changed enormously in that period even though present day pundits might say that what we are seeing now is further evidence that the prophets were right and the end really is very nigh. But what if the world carries on as is for another two hundred years, without the Messiah coming to this earth? How should that influence our take on life?
If one is to make a point, it is we have to be cautious and yet not negligent in our studies. While the pieces of the jig-saw are coming together, it would seem at a far greater rate than the students of prophecy, 200 years ago, could ever have imagined, we still don’t know for sure a lot of the detail. But we worship a majestic God and He only has to give the word and things will change (just as we have been seeing since the author embarked on this project) in remarkable, unforeseen ways and for that we look on what is happening in awesome wonder. To illustrate his final point before we end it, the author searched out an example text from Ezekiel and came up with “then shall they know that I am the Lord their God” Ezekiel 39:29. The point here is, as in the other forty odd “then shall they know” references in Ezekiel, that the point behind studying prophecy, both prediction and fulfilment, is that people shall know the Lord for who He truly is.
There you have it, but just one more thought: What we have covered already and are about to cover are grave subjects and very real, because God is very real, because He means and does what He says, as numerous prophecies bear out. We can look around us in despair thinking why do we matter and how can we make a difference, yet mindful that these scriptures can encourage us and guide us on our way. The world is clearly not going the way it ought, i.e. as per God’s purposes, and we may feel inconsequential and powerless. But the point is we do matter because God says we do, and we need to hang in there, for we can make a difference and, however forlorn things may seem, God is in control of history, and by His grace we can be part of His grand purposes. Bible prophecy both assures us God’s word will come to pass and of His perfection. These are twelve topics we have selected that demonstrate these and many other points. It comes with a caveat that others will have different interpretations on these challenging texts but we need to search the scriptures realising we don’t have all the answers.
- Enoch and the Lord’s coming with His saints (Jude 1:14,15)
- The Lord, my lord and Melchizedek the Priest (Psalm 110)
- The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
- The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34 etc.)
- The battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38,39)
- The new (third) Temple (Ezekiel 40-48)
- Daniel and the AntiChrist (Daniel 7)
- The restoration of Israel (and the Gentile inclusion) (Amos 9:10-15)
- The destruction of the Temple and signs of the End Times (Matthew 24)
- The Battle of Armegeddon and the Lord’s return (Revelation 19 etc.)
- The Millennium (the 1000-year reign of Christ) (Revelation 20:1-6)
- The New Heaven and the New Earth (Revelation 21,22)
Enoch and the Lord’s coming with His saints (Jude 1:14,15)
We might not give Enoch, whose only statement in the Old Testament is “And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” Genesis 5:21-24, a second thought if he were not quoted in the pen-ultimate book in the Bible (Jude): “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” Jude 1:14,15.
Jude was written as a warning and an exhortation to his readers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” Jude 1:3, in the light of false teachers who had crept into the church to lead it astray. In doing so, he quotes from the Book of Enoch. Whilst not considered part of the canon, it held much sway in the early church. The Book of Enoch is an ancient Hebrew apocalyptic religious text, ascribed by tradition to Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah (this is significant because his son Methuselah’s name means “When He Is Dead It (being the Flood) Shall Be Sent”, which is what happened). Enoch contains unique material on the origins of demons and giants, why some angels fell from heaven, an explanation of why the Great Flood was morally necessary, and prophetic exposition of the thousand-year reign of the Messiah.
This prophecy is the first indisputably recorded in the Bible and yet is looking forward to end times, reminding us of texts like Revelation 19:14 that present similar teachings. It is a thought and is parked here for future consideration, that while Enoch was the seventh from Adam via Seth (the son who replaced Abel who Cain murdered) that Lamech was the seventh from Adam via Cain, and while Enoch was godly, the Genesis 4 record reveals that Lamech was not and is an early indication of the ongoing conflict between the children of light and those of darkness. As for the Book of Enoch’s fixation with demons and giants, it is worth bearing in mind prior to the flood coming in Genesis 6 that “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose… there were giants in the earth in those days …” (Genesis 6:2,4).
In relating this unusual, yet pertinent to make Jude’s case, prophecy of Enoch, we should ever be mindful of the spiritual warfare that is taking place around us and be encouraged to maintain hope, notably God’s long term purposes that are detailed in many more obvious places in the Bible, and shall surely come to pass.
The Lord, my lord and Melchizedek the Priest (Psalm 110)
Psalm 110 is the most quoted Psalm the New Testament. It contains the epitome of the gospel: the coronation of Christ as King-Priest. Contained here are core doctrinal principles: 1) Godhead/Trinity (v.1); 2) Suffering as priest (v.4); 3) Resurrection (v.7); 4) Completed work (5-6); 5) Ascension (1, sit at my right hand); 6) Church (v.3); 7) Final judgment (1b); 8) Eternal life (v.4, “forever”).
When he was being asked various trick questions by the Pharisees, Jesus turned the table on them by asking his own question: “While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions” Matthew 26:41-46. Reference to this Psalm formed an important part of the gospel presentation by the Early Church, such as quoted on the Day of Pentecost: “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool” Acts 2:33-35.
This aspect of the Messiah, with the support of his willing followers “rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power” (110:2,3) and the way he subdues His enemies and is refreshed on the way “The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head” (110:5-7), speaks of Christ’s ultimate victory.
But the verse forming the backbone of the argument that Christ’s (Melchizedek) priesthood is better than the Law’s (Aaronic) priesthood and is our way back to a holy God, is: “The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (110:4), is often referred to in Hebrews: “As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec … Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec” (5:6,1. “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec” (6:19,20). “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him” (7:1).
The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
The most referred to OT passage in the NT is one of the Servant Songs, this one to do with the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). As far as Bible believing Christians go there is a fair amount of unanimity as to how this prophecy related to the events around Jesus, as were recorded in the NT and other historical texts. The problem liberals raise is how could Isaiah have known, although the text was recognised, e.g. the Dead Sea scrolls, long before Christ. More significant is what refered to a Messiah that had to suffer is not an interpretation many Jews accept.
In terms of how what was prophesied related to Jesus, we can make reference to each verse, all with a NT fulfilment in the life and especially the death of Jesus:
- his visage was so marred more than any man (52:14)
- so shall he sprinkle many nations (52:15)
- the kings shall shut their mouths at him (52:15)
- there is no beauty that we should desire him (53:2)
- he is despised and rejected of men (53:3)
- a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief (53:3)
- we hid as it were our faces from him (53:3)
- he was despised, and we esteemed him not (53:3)
- he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows (53:4)
- yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted (53:4)
- he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities (53:5)
- with his stripes we are healed (53:5)
- the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all (53:6)
- he was oppressed, and he was afflicted (53:7)
- he opened not his mouth (53:7)
- he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter (53:7)
- as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth (53:7)
- for he was cut off out of the land of the living (53:8)
- for the transgression of my people was he stricken (53:8)
- he made his grave with the wicked (53:9)
- and with the rich in his death (53:9)
- yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him (53:10)
- thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin (53:10)
- the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand (53:10)
- he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied (53:11)
- by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many (53:11)
- he shall bear their iniquities (53:11)
- he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (53:12)
The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34 etc.)
We are talking here of “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” Jeremiah 31:31-33, which theme is repeated in Ezekiel 36:26-27, is what Moses had seen to be coming in Deuteronomy 29 and is elaborated upon in Hebrews 8 and 9.
The Bible is full of covenants God made, for example with: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, all of which are good and not necessarily replaced by later covenants. But the covenant mentioned here in Jeremiah is significant, for at least two good reasons. Up to Chapter 31, a lot of what Jeremiah had prophesied was dire and depressing and would culminate in a matter of a few years with Judah being taken into Exile, but now there is more than a glimmer of hope: “At the same time, saith the Lord, will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus saith the Lord, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness; even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest. The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee … They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn. (31:1-3).
Jeremiah looked forward to Israel restored into their land and to God, and likely had but a basic knowledge of the New Covenant as applied to Gentile believers. The NT points out the limitations of the Mosaic Covenant, which was powerless to deal with sin as it did not address the issue of the heart. Not only did he tell a leading Jew of His time that he needed to be born again (John 3:3) but just prior to His death Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” Matthew 26:26-28.
The battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38, 39)
Firstly, a confession! Having identified this as one of the “twelve”, the author felt to drop it, thinking it could be referred to when we come to “the Battle of Armegeddon”, but then when it became clearer that unlike several other OT last battle prophecies, this may not be one of them and, moreover, in the light of the subtly and confusingly changing Middle East picture, this is especially relevant and therefore merited inclusion and it could even be the next big event, and one that could precede the Great Tribulation, when the AntiChrist does his mischief.
The prophesy begins: “Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him, And say, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal: And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws … in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel” (38:2-4,8). Several nations are part of this unholy alliance, led by Russia, supported by Iran, Turkey, and countries in North Africa and Islamic Asia, but from the “hooks” statement we know God has their measure. Israel is at peace and the target is (the mountains) or the West Bank aka Judea-Samaria. “Thus saith the Lord God; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought: And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates” (38:10-11). While it is a large army, they suffer an emphatic defeat, followed by a 7-year clear up operation, because of God’s intervention using “natural” events and the attacking armies turning on each other: “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face” (38:18). But God’s perspective is: “Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord” (38:23) and the people, Israel and her enemies, will know it is God who has won the victory and is a trigger for some turning to God.
Give the state of world and specifically Middle East events today, the Palestinian question, Russian aspirations for regional control and influence, Israel antipathy by nations like Turkey and Iran, we can see how all this fits in a way that would not have been the case not so long ago. But also avoid precipitous conclusions. The question is begged where are super-powers, like the USA and China? As for Britain (some have argued is Tarshish), consider: “Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil?” (38:13), but realise the victory is the Lord’s alone!
The new (third) Temple (Ezekiel 40-48)
This is one part of scripture where Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple lends itself, unsurprising, to varied interpretations, and is presented here as an instance where the author has not come to a definitive view on something he considers to be important. Even if we maintain the literal approach to interpretation, given such a Temple has yet to be built and much of what was described has not happened and cannot be, at least before the return of the Messiah, even though there is a temple in Revelation, still to be built, the question is begged why a temple is needed and why a sacrificial system, given Jesus has dwelt (tabernacled) among us and is the ultimate sacrifice, which means no more sacrifices are required?
It should be bourne in mind that Temple worship played a pivotal part in Jewish life, starting with the building of the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and when it came to instituting various aspects of worship and religious life under Moses, building the Temple under Solomon and then the second temple after the return from Exile. Herod’s rebuilt second temple was destroyed in 70 AD and from then on until the present day there is no Temple and animal sacrifice plays no part in Jewish religion, although that would appear to change in the Tribulation period. The Temple was seen as God’s dwelling place, where His glory was manifested.
Some of the highlights concerning the Temple, as well as the City and the Land:
- The precise detail given of the Temple construction.
- Similarities with Solomon’s Temple but significant difference too.
- Everyone had and knew their place in the well-ordered life of the Temple.
- The sense of order and purpose; divine peace and blessing.
- The sense of righteousness and justice.
- The priests of Zadok, the Levites and the Prince.
- The glory of God that left the Temple in chapters 10 and 11, returns in 43.
- The river that flows from the Temple in chapter 47 that gives life to all.
- The unusual apportionment of the Land.
- “The city from that day shall be, The Lord is there” (48:35).
The author is inclined to the view Ezekiel’s Temple vision is NOT to be taken entirely literally as it cannot take place until Jesus returns and then the Temple system is no longer needed. However, reading the detailed description, the exiled Jews, who looked forward to the restored kingdom with its Temple, could well understand how things might be under its Messiah. As for when this will happen, while it could be in the millennium, it is likelier to happen in the New Jerusalem (described in Revelation 21 and 22) where much of the imagery presented in Ezekiel’s vision was picked up by John in his vision of the New Jerusalem.
Daniel and the AntiChrist (Daniel 7)
The Antichrist is prophesied by the Bible to oppose Christ and substitute himself in Christ’s place just prior to the Second Coming in a period sometimes referred to as the Great Tribulation. The Bible identifies many AntiChrist type figures, going back to Genesis with Lamech, Nimrod, and notably Antiochus Epiphanes, spoken about, but not by name, in Daniel 11. Besides Jesus teaching in Matthew 24, John writes of the Antichrist in 1John 2:18-27, as does Paul in 2Thessalonians 3:10. The AntiChrist features prominently in Revelation, with the opening of the First Seal “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (6:2). In Chapter 13 we read a fuller description starting with his arrival: “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority” (13:1-2) and describing how he deceives and subjugates the world and opposes the saints. He comes to the end following the Battle of Armegeddon, and meets his downfall with the coming of Christ in Chapter 19. This is borne out in Daniel 11 that appears to be an example of prophecy having more than one fulfilment, when “he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him” (11:45).
We are first introduced to the Antichrist in Daniel 7: “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things … Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;” (7:7-8, 19-21). Yet it is only for a season. Daniel 7 is more concerned with the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man: “judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (7:22).
The restoration of Israel (and the Gentile inclusion) (Amos 9:10-15)
The subject of Israel’s bright, future hope is covered by many of the Hebrew prophets, and this is what Amos writes, following concluding his prophecy of future judgment for Israel: “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us” (9:10). But looking to the future he sees a glorious future: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” (9:11-15).
We might be tempted to conclude while very nice, other Hebrew prophets made the same point, maybe better, except this was a key text when the Early Church met for its first and only recorded Council (of Jerusalem) when it had to come to terms with the problematic question of how they were to include Gentiles who did not first convert to Judaism and follow the Law of Moses. But it was James whose argument carried the day: “Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God” Acts 15:14-19
The restoration of Israel (which their long awaited Messiah was expected to bring about) was no doubt an Early (mostly Jewish) church preoccupation as was the vexed question of whether you need to be a Jew before becoming a Christian, something we see in the early chapters of Acts and Galatians that was hotly debated. It was not so much Gentiles replacing Jews as the beneficiaries of God’s promises but rather they were to be included in those very promises, being among them that “which are called by my name” Amos writes about.
The destruction of the Temple and signs of the End Times (Matthew 24)
The chapter starts with the Temple and a pertinent question: “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (24:1-3). Jesus comes up with an assortment of signs and observations that were to lead to His Second Coming, beginning with something that was to take place less than 40 years later – the utter destruction of the Temple (in AD 70) and something still to happen 2000 years on, His coming in the clouds, along with warnings and advice.
- The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet (24:15) is one prophecy that was fulfilled in 166 BC, will be fulfilled in 70 AD and again in the time of Great Tribulation under the AntiChrist, with devastation each time, ending with great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world.
- There will be false Christs and false prophets and widespread deception. These shall shew great signs and wonders and “shall deceive the very elect” (24:24).
- There will be wars and rumours of wars and all sorts of “natural” disasters.
- There will be hatred toward and persecution of those who are His followers.
- Many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
- Iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
- The gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world.
- “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other … But of that day and hour knoweth no man … but my Father only.” (24:30-31, 36).
- It will be like the days of Noah, when the floods came destroying the earth and it will be a separation “two be in the field; the one shall be taken” (24:40).
- “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come … Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh … Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing … But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming … The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of. And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (24:42, 44, 46, 46, 50-51).
The Battle of Armegeddon and the Lord’s return (Revelation 19 etc.)
“For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (16:14-16)
“For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” 17:14-16
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” 19:11-14
Other pertinent references relating the last great battle on Earth, known as the Battle of Armageddon, which is ended in spectacular manner when Christ returns to the Earth, when he defeats the armies from many nations that have come up to do battle, specifically against Israel, are: Isaiah 34:1-6, Isaiah 63:1-6, Daniel 9 and 11, Joel 3, Zechariah 14. The nature of the battle (or battles) is not entirely clear and while the Revelation reference suggests it takes place on the plains of Megiddo, the crossroads of the world, where many of the battle in the past had taken place, if we take these references to relate to the same event then it could also be in locations 100 radius of Jerusalem: Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel), Bozrah (Isaiah) and Jerusalem itself (Zechariah). From the Revelation account, it is in the context of the destruction of the great mystery (Babylon), the rise and rule of the AntiChrist, the enmity between the “saints” and those who follow the AntiChrist and the False Prophet and divine judgements upon the earth starting with the seven seals and leading to the seven trumpets and finally the seven bowls. While the period involved is seven years (and the worst in the final three and half years when the AntiChrist turns against Israel, with which he had made a covenant) it is one of terrible suffering, for the saints and also for Israel, many of who had yet to accept to accept Jeshua their Messiah, but will do at the end, Zechariah 12:10.
The Millennium (the 1000-year reign of Christ) (Revelation 20:1-6)
There is a verse in Isaiah (and also in Micah) that has been cherry picked (because it misses out the key ingredient – the Messiah – who is needed to make it happen) by the United Nations, in coming up with some form of mission statement which to quote fully reads: “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” Isaiah 2:4. Isaiah begins his Book with a rebuke and yet he looks forward to a reign of peace, that is referred to as the millennium.
And not just Isaiah, the other major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel) and twelve minor prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi) too. Most of them looked forward to the Day of the Lord, the coming of Israel’s Messiah and Israel’s fortunes restored, and far, far better, in a time referred to here as the millennium. For most of them recognized, lived through or lived after the result of YHWH’s judgement: exiled by the Assyrians (Israel) and by the Babylonians (Judah). While a measure of restoration occurred following the return from exile by decree of Persian King Cyrus, what was experienced was a shadow of that prophesied.
Which brings us to Revelation and the millennium text falling between Christ’s Second Coming and Judgement Day: “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (20:4-6).
Christian pundits over the centuries come into different schools of thought: a-, post- and pre- (and even pan- i.e. it will all pan out in the end) millennialist, and within each group there are significant variations, for example pre-millennialists who don’t believe in the “secret rapture”. A-millennialists don’t believe in a literal millennium. Post-millennialists believe we may be in it. Pre-millennialists (including the author) believe the above text, and the many related in the Old Testament, should be taken literally. Christ reigns and those who had been killed for witnessing to Jesus will reign with Him. The restored Kingdom (of David) has finally arrived! It will be a time of peace and prosperity. The world, with Satan and the bad guys removed, and Christ ruling, will function as God intended.
The New Heaven and the New Earth (Revelation 21,22)
As we have noted, Christians are in general agreement about actuality of the Second Coming but attach varying importance and applications according to their particular understanding. The same goes with the eternal state – while in agreement that there is life after death, there is considerable variance on what this life actually is. Some, maybe many, will view our eternal destiny as being either Heaven – a place of continuous spiritual bliss somewhere in Outer Space, or Hell, which is just the opposite, although many these days dispute such a place exists.
When the Millennium ends, the devil is released from captivity and allowed one more opportunity to reek havoc on the Earth, including another Gog and Magog battle, before God intervenes and he is consigned to the Lake of Fire, a place of eternal torment. Then comes the final great judgment when all who ever lived: “were judged every man according to their works. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (20:13,15). We are then told: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (21:1-3).
Since we only have a page, all the author can add is that it is glorious, for the whole of creation is redeemed, the universe and everything in it is made new and, for once, what seems too good to be true is better than true. Read chapters 21 and 22 and see for yourself. It was what Abraham looked forward to 4000 years ago when leaving home comforts to take up the mission God gave him: “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” Hebrews 11:10. It is something Peter could see when writing: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” 2Peter 3:10.
The Bible ends presenting a stark choice we all have to make, the gospel invitation to come to Jesus and the heart felt cry of His followers for Him to come: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still … And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely … Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (22: 11,17,20).