Many insist that actual dates of the end-time events discussed so far cannot be set. However, although we cannot be absolutely certain of the exact years, I believe that some or all of the events will fall on certain dates on the Hebrew calendar. I deduce this primarily from the fact, as previously was discussed in detail (seeC-4), that Jesus already has fulfilled each of the four Hebrew Spring festivals/holy days (sacrifice and death on Passover, Aviv 14; lying in the grave on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Aviv 15; resurrection on the Feast of Firstfruits, Aviv 17; and supernatural manifestation of His presence, via the Holy Spirit, on Shavuot, Sivan 6). Therefore, I feel certain that Jesus will fulfill each of the three Hebrew Fall festivals/holy Days as well (see C-5).
I believe the main Rapture of the Church will take place on a certain Rosh haShanah or Yom Teruah (which is celebrated on Tishri 1 and 2), because it will be a vast assemblage (of all who have accepted Jesus) going up to meet Him in the air (see “the great assemblage”: C-5, P-I). It will precede the Day of the Lord period by a very short time, maybe as much as a week (as Noah entered the ark 7 days before the Flood—Gen. 7:7,10).
It should be noted that Rosh haShanah begins at the new moon, on a Rosh Chodesh. Before methods were available to calculate the exact time of each new moon, no one knew the day or hour the new moon would occur until two witnesses, peering into the sky, detected the first minute sliver of the waxing moon. Upon their announcement, Rosh haShanah officially would begin. Thus, when Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour [of His return in the clouds]...” (Matt. 24:36a), He most likely was making a specific reference to Rosh haShanah. Which Rosh haShanah, only the Father knew.
Jesus’ claim that no one knows the day or hour of His coming is satisfied by the fact that we do not know in which year (and, thus, on which day and hour of that year) His aerial reappearance will be. Plus, even if we could know which year, Rosh haShanah is observed on two consecutive days; in fact, the shofar (ram’s horn) is blown both days. So we would not know on which of those two days, nor at what hour, His coming will be.
In the middle of the 70th Week, 3½ years after the confirmation of a covenant with Israel takes place, the Antichrist will make his haughty entrance into God’s holy place in Jerusalem (Matt. 24:15a; Mark 13:14a;). This could be on Aviv 10, simulating Jesus’ entry on this date centuries ago (see “parallels between Jesus and the Passover lamb”: C-4, P-I). He could set up the “abomination that causes desolation” anytime during Passover week. It would make sense that because an end will be put to sacrifice and offering (Dan. 9:27b), a very likely time for this to happen would be during Passover week—one of the most important times of the Jewish year for sacrificing (the annual Passover lambs).
I believe a future Yom Kippur (Tishri 10) will be the day of Jesus’ physical descent to earth (see “Jesus, atonement sacrifice and Redeemer”: C-5, P-II). It will be 42 months or 1,260 days after Jesus’ two witnesses (see “the two witnesses”: P-III, S-1) begin prophesying in Jerusalem (Rev. 11:2c,3) and after the Israelites begin to flee from the fierce Antichrist (12:6). Both of these events should occur, on the same day, at the midpoint of the 70th Week.
Most who hold to a Pre-TR (“Pre-Tribulation” or “Pre-70th Week” Rapture) view believe that the coming of Jesus in the clouds to take His body of believers (the Church) is imminent, that it can occur at any moment without warning. (I have discussed how I believe that most of the sixth seal disturbances will precede a Pre-WR or “Pre-Wrath” Rapture.) Their belief is that the events described by Jesus in Matt. 24:4-7 as the “beginning of birth pains/sorrows” (24:8) can happen before the 70th Week starts. (I have detailed how I see these events as being encompassed within the first half of the 70th Week, coincident with the first four seals—Rev. 6:1-8.) They feel that statements such as these by Jesus support their view:
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it [Jesus’ Second Coming at the Rapture] is near, right at the door (Matt. 24:32,33).
So when the events of which Jesus spoke occur, His coming is near. I agree, but I believe Jesus did not mean His coming would occur only after the escalation of wars and rumors of wars, rising of nation against nation, and a marked increase in earthquakes and famines (Matt. 24:6,7). His coming in the air will be after all the events of which he spoke, including the Antichrist’s setting up the abomination which causes desolation in the middle of the 70th Week (24:15), the fleeing of Jews from Jerusalem at that time (24:16-20), and the persecution (to death) of many Jews and Christians (24:9,10). I see this as further evidence that the Rapture will not occur until after the midpoint of the 70th Week.
There is no doubt that wars and ethnic unrest, numbers and severity of earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and other calamities have increased significantly in amount and magnitude throughout the world during this century. For example, the arbitrary year of 1992 alone had more than its share of natural disasters: severe earthquakes wrecking parts of Nicaragua, Colombia, Egypt, Northern and Southern California, Utah, Indonesia, and Australia; extremely powerful hurricanes and typhoons slamming into the Bahamas, Florida, Louisiana, Guam, the Philippines, and Kauai; hurricane-force winds striking New York and other east coast cities; and even relatively rare occurrences of volcanic eruptions in the Philippines, Alaska, and Hawaii; and giant tidal waves along the coasts of Nicaragua and Indonesia. And, since 1992, the number and intensity of disasters only have increased.
I feel, though, that these things have not yet reached the stage described by Jesus as the “beginning of birth pains” (or “sorrows”). I see the birth pains of which He spoke as being even more frequent and intense and striking more major metropolitan areas (like the 6.7 temblor scoring a direct hit on Los Angeles on January 17, 1994 and the 7.2 quake devastating Kobe, Japan, exactly one year later) than what has occurred so far this century. However, they will be less intense than the hard labor pains of travail (Isa. 13:8b) to occur during the Day of the Lord period (13:6-9) and from which no place on earth will be exempt (for instance, Rev. 16:18-20).
I do feel that the marked increase in natural and man-induced calamities forebode the impending onset of the 70th Week. There are other things, as well, which lead me to believe that the time for the signing of the seven-year “peace” covenant involving Israel, thus commencing the 70th Week, is ripe.
The countries of the European Union (EU), out of which I believe will arise the final and most powerful (10-nation) empire on earth (see “fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream”: C-11, P-I), have removed all barriers to free trade and allow free movement of capital and people, as of January 1, 1993. The EU countries aim to integrate their economies, coordinate social developments, and bring about the political unification of the democratic states of Europe. Also, the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA)—the latter comprised of Austria, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland—have formed a new common market, the European Economic Area (EEA), one of the world’s largest trading blocs. The EU already has been a mediator in many of the world’s conflicts. From out of the “sea” of people in the EU, I believe, will arise the “beast” (Antichrist) foreseen by John (Rev. 13:1b); he, apparently, will be accepted as the world’s principal “peacemaker.”
In the USA, the gigantic trade deficit and the national debt continue to escalate uncontrolled, savings-and-loan and bank failures are increasing alarmingly, large insurance companies and airlines are going bankrupt (mergers will provide only temporary relief), and the chairman of the FDIC has said that it may be running out of money. Orange County, California, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, surprisingly declared bankruptcy December 6, 1994; I suspect large-scale bankruptcies will be commonplace during the next millennium, if not before. (Also, it may be that this “economic earthquake” portends a significant actual earthquake in Orange County in the future.) Our joining with Canada and Mexico in an economic/trading bloc—the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—will only stall, at best, the inevitable.
A worldwide central bank is on the horizon; and I suspect that all currency (again, soon after the beginning of the next millennium, if not before) will become obsolete. During his term, President Bush claimed that we were on the threshold of a “New World Order.” However, I do not think Mr. Bush’s vision of this will materialize the way he had hoped; I foresee a world-wide economic collapse of monumental proportions, making the Great Depression seem pale in comparison and knocking the USA out of the top spot in the world economic scene. The President in office at that time then will be forced to deal with a problem of staggering proportions.
False religions insist that the dawning of a “New Age” is almost upon us. In the midst of this, many have emerged claiming to be “the messiah,” just as Jesus predicted (Matt. 24:5). The long list of claimants includes Shoko Ashahara, Sai Baba, Lord Maitreya, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Allen-Michael Noonan, and Maharishi Yoga. Billy Graham says there are over 500 “messiahs” in California alone. These people may be written off as “extremists,” but that does not negate their claims to messiahship nor their vast multitudes of followers.
People of virtually every nation are crying out, “Peace and safety!”; never before has the unified call for a world-wide community—and a “messiah” to lead it—been so demanding. Chuck Smith, insightful pastor of Calvary Chapel in Santa Ana, California, has said that the people of the earth are primed right now for a world leader to take over and “solve” the planet’s vast problems. He believes that this man will be received almost universally when he finally emerges into public view.
Concrete plans for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (see “preparations for the future temple”: C-11, P-III) are progressing unlike at any time since the last temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. This (completed) temple must be in place for the Antichrist to enter into it in the middle of the 70th Week; I suspect that the reconstruction will begin soon after the 7-year covenant is made, maybe even before.
Peace negotiations between the Israelis and their neighbors have accelerated significantly this decade. On September 28, 1995, the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the Palestinians met in Washington, D. C., to sign an unprecedented peace agreement. Yitzhak Rabin, former prime minister of Israel (gunned down by a right-wing Jewish extremist at a peace rally on November 4, 1995), began the process of swapping “land for peace” (for instance, by granting the Palestinians control over Jericho).
On October 23, 1998, another important peace agreement was signed in Washington, D. C., by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. (Also present were President Bill Clinton, as well as King Hussein of Jordan.) One of the most significant stipulations of the agreement was that, after 35 years, the articles of the Palestinian charter calling for the destruction of Israel be canceled. In turn, 13% more of the West Bank was to be turned over to Palestinian civilian control. The ratification of the 70th Week covenant, made with “many” (Dan. 9:27a), appears to be at the door.
Mankind’s evil and corruption, prior to God’s wrath being manifested in the Great Flood is, alarmingly and appallingly, much the same as it is today:
The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. ...
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways (Gen. 6:5,11,12).
More specifically, Paul gives us insight into the characters of people at the end of this age:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.
They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth (2 Tim. 3:1-7).
Seemingly, we fast are approaching the time described in a statement by Jesus, who was speaking of the last days: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12).
Concerning eschatology (study of end-time events), there are facts which are irrefutable, and there are ideas which have convincing arguments from differing viewpoints. For instance, in my opinion, there is no question that Jesus will return in the clouds to catch up His faithful believers to be with Him (1 Ths. 4:16,17), that Satan will empower and give authority to a man to whom people throughout the earth will give allegiance (Rev. 13:2b,3b), and that God’s wrath will come upon a world of rebellious, disobedient people caught up in a multitude of sins ranging from lust to greed (Col. 3:5,6) and unprotected by the shed blood of Jesus.
On the other hand, the idea of the timing of the Rapture is disputable. For instance, although I hold to the “Pre-Wrath” Rapture (Pre-WR) view (a Rapture occurring ½ to 2½ years after the midpoint of the 70th Week), there is one idea which causes me not to reject completely the idea of a pre-70th Week (commonly called a “Pre-Tribulation”) Rapture. After a traditional Jewish wedding, the celebration would last for from one to seven days, depending on the wealth of the bridegroom’s family (see “bridegroom and bride”: C-6, P-III). Obviously, God does not lack for wealth; so it might be presumed that the celebration would last for seven years, thus forcing the Rapture (return for the Bride—see “Bridegroom and Bride”: C-6, P-III) to take place before the 70th Week begins. I, however, believe that the celebration will coincide with the seven-day celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot (Lev. 23:34) soon after Jesus’ Second Advent (see “Jesus, the King”: C-5, P-III; and “wedding supper of the Lamb”: C-12, P-IV, S-1). I cannot see this celebration taking place during any portion of the 70th Week, mainly because God’s focus will be on this world—primarily Israel—and on the critical events taking place in it during the last seven years of this age. This will be no time for merrymaking.
Another event to which a specific time cannot be attached is the invasion of Israel by the armies of Gog/Magog and their allies. Although I have placed this episode during the Day of the Lord (near the end of the 70th Week), it is conceivable that it will occur at another time—for instance, soon after the opening of the second seal (Rev. 6:3,4) during the first half of the 70th Week (see P-II, S-2). It even is possible that the war will start and end before the 70th Week begins, since the people of Israel will gather the weapons of the enemy and use them for fuel for seven years (Ezek. 39:9). Furthermore, it is possible that Gog is not a demon spirit but is a human, and that the entire component of forces mentioned by John as coming against Israel (Rev. 9:16) will be human and not demonic at all (though, considering the vast number, I do not see how). Some even feel that Gog and the Antichrist are one and the same person, and most believe that there is only one enormous final battle at the time of Jesus’ physical coming rather than two, as I have submitted. I, however, believe that the evidence for my viewpoints (seeP-IV) is substantial.
Unquestionably, there are certainties and uncertainties associated with interpreting end-time prophecies (though, it would seem to me, anyone with any degree of discernment would agree that a host of extraordinary events seem to be occurring in the world all at once in this last decade of the twenty-first century). The point in bringing this up, and in going so far as to prompt questions about my own eschatological beliefs, is to assert that the disagreement which inevitably arises from the discussion of this topic should not be a source of division among those who hold the Gospel message to be factual and indisputable. In other words, for all those who take literally the Gospel message of the saving grace of God through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ, everything else should be of less significance than this essential message.
Nothing, in my opinion, is of greater importance than to believe that 1) mankind has been separated spiritually from God by sin (due to acceptance of the knowledge of evil—Gen. 3:5,6) and, thus, naturally is headed for an eternity away from Him (Psalm 14:1-3; Isa. 53:6a; Rom. 3:10-12; Heb. 12:25); 2) in His incomparable grace and mercy, and even before the beginning of time, God had made one way—through Jesus Christ—for people to be reconciled back to Him (John 3:16, 14:6; Acts 4:12; Rom. 5:9,10; 2 Tim. 1:9); 3) Jesus, God incarnate, was conceived by a human virgin (Mary) and the Holy Spirit (Isa. 7:14; Luke 1:34,35), walked the earth performing uncountable great miracles (John 20:30, 21:25), took the penalty for humanity’s sins upon Himself as He died on the cross (Isa. 53:5ab,6b,12e; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 1:4), was buried (John 19:40-42; 1 Cor. 15:4a), and rose from the dead (Acts 10:40; 1 Cor. 15:4b,20a) to live for eternity (John 17:3; 1 John 5:11,12a,20bc) in an imperishable flesh-and-bones body (Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:50) so that all who have believed in Him as Savior and Lord can do the same (John 3:16; 1 John 3:2b). The beginning of this wonderful eternal Life, with believers in Jesus possessing brand new spirits, souls, and bodies, will be manifested during the glorious Millennium, described in the next chapter.
Proceed to Chapter 13
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Copyright © 1998– by Ted M. Montgomery, O.D. Most rights reserved.