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When Is Jesus Returning
His return, preceding events and the Antichrist.
When Is Jesus Christ Coming Again?
Nobody can say with any degree of certainty when Jesus is coming again, because He said clearly that even the angels in heaven do not know that day (see Mark 13:32). No man knows that day, and the Son of God, when He was on the earth, did not know either. This knowledge, the Lord Jesus said, was strictly reserved for the Father.
We can see certain signs, or clues (see Matthew 24:3, Luke 21:7), that His coming is approaching. Jesus said there would be wars and rumors of wars, revolutions, widespread famine, disease, and earthquakes in many different places (see Matthew 24:6-7, Luke 21:10-11). There would be an increase of lawlessness and anarchy. The apostle Paul said, "That day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God" (II Thessalonians 2:3-4). Along with the "man of sin" will come what is called an apostasy, or a falling away. Many of the believing people will grow cold in their faith (see Matthew 24:12). There will be persecution of Christians and a time of general trouble.
I think all these things are happening with increasing frequency.
Another event that had to happen before Jesus could return was the re-establishment of the state of Israel. The original Israel disappeared from the globe hundreds of years ago. In 1948 a new state of Israel was established. The regathering of Jews to Israel is a clear sign, in both the Old and New Testaments, that our age is just about over. Jesus said, "Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). On June 6, 1967, the Jews, for the first time since Jerusalem was captured by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., took over control of the entire city of Jerusalem, thus signaling the approaching end of Gentile world power.
Jesus said, however, that the one major thing which would herald His coming would be the proclamation of the gospel. He said, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
These are signs of the times. We are to hold ourselves always ready for our Lord's return. But nobody knows the day and hour when that will be.
What Else Must Happen Before Christ Returns?
Some people teach that Jesus could come at any time because Jesus warned His disciples always to be watchful. While it is true that we do not know exactly when He will come, certain signs of His coming were discussed in my last answer. Jesus said the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37-39). The thing that strikes me about the days of Noah is that even in the midst of terrible apostasy, evil, violence, and rebellion against God, the people went ahead with their normal lives. They planted fields, they harvested crops, they built houses, they got married, and they had children. They went about business as usual, until the very day that Noah entered the ark, and then destruction came and took them all away. That is how it will be when Jesus comes again. Business will go on pretty much as usual until the dreadful wrath of God and the Tribulation fall upon the earth. Then it will be too late to turn to God. At that point Jesus will come back again. He could come back tonight, but it is my personal feeling that some of the signs of His coming--especially the revelation of the "man of sin"--have not yet occurred (see II Thessalonians 2:3).
What Does The Bible Teach About The Jewish People and The Nation of Israel?
The nation of Israel is unique in the role God chose for it. In the creation there was Adam, and then there was Noah who survived the Flood. From Noah's child, Shem, came a family out of which was born a man named Abram (Abraham). He was called by God to journey to a foreign land, which is now Palestine. God said to him, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). From Abraham came Isaac and then Jacob, later called "Israel." From Jacob came twelve sons whose families became the twelve tribes comprising the nation of Israel.
To this nation was given the revelation of God, His nature, His laws, and His history. Israel was entrusted with the Bible, and because of these people all the nations of the earth have been blessed.
But the greatest blessing by far that was entrusted to Israel was the bringing forth of the Messiah who would die for the sins of mankind, to restore man to the fellowship with God that he lost at the Fall. For two thousand years the children of Abraham were sheltered, set apart from the nations, and instructed in the ways of God. Then in what the Bible calls "the fullness of time," God sent to the Jewish people Jesus of Nazareth, who was the Messiah or "anointed one"--the Christ (see Galatians 4:4). The message of His coming, His death, and His resurrection has been the true means whereby all the nations of the world have been blessed.
The people of Israel are still precious to God. The Old Testament promised that the nation of Israel would be restored in the last times (see Ezekiel 11:17). This prophecy was fulfilled in 1948. Even though Israel was destroyed and its people scattered abroad because of their unbelief, God said He would rebuild the nation just prior to the end of the age. At the climax of history the Israelis will turn to God, and the nation will once again become a center of God's revelation to all mankind (see Zechariah 12:10). The law will go forth from Jerusalem, and all the nations will come to Jerusalem to learn the law of the Lord (see Isaiah 2:2-3). At that time, the natural sons of Abraham will be exalted, along with those who, through faith in Jesus Christ, have become sons of Abraham after the Spirit. So in the last days the Jews and the church will share a wonderful glory (see Romans 11:25-26).
The nation of Israel as a whole did not accept Jesus when He was on earth. The apostle Paul said that even their unbelief became a blessing to the rest of the world, because they were temporarily cut off from God's salvation and the Gentiles took their place. When the Jews refused to believe, the rest of us were offered a chance. But when they return to faith it will be equivalent to the resurrection of the dead (see Romans 11:1-32). Some people think that a certain sign of the return of Jesus Christ to earth will be the restoration of the Jewish people to an understanding of God's full revelation in Christ.
Are These The Last Days?
The Bible says that in the last days many scoffers will say, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation" (II Peter 3:4). On my birthday, when I was fifty-four years old, the producer of "The 700 Club" television program gave me a front page of the NEW YORK TIMES for the day I was born in 1930. The similarity between those days and these days is striking. There are the same kinds of trouble in the world, the same kinds of international tension, and the same kinds of money problems. So these days are not far different from those days. Yet, by now, we have seen the occurrences of some very significant events that convince me that these are the last days.
First of all, the nation of Israel was reborn in 1948. That nation will complete a generation of forty years in 1988. Second, the Jews now control all of Jerusalem and have since 1967. That is very significant as I have noted in previous answers. Third, we have the ability, with nuclear weapons, to obliterate all life, or to kill, as Revelation puts it, at least one third of all people in a single war (see Revelation 9:18).
Another thing that we have today is an incredible explosion of knowledge (see Daniel 12:4). Our knowledge doubles every six years. We have unlocked the atom and the secrets of the gene. We have come close to the heart of life itself, and in the process we have grown callous toward our fellow men and toward the Creator of life.
We are expanding our knowledge in many areas which could benefit all people by making their lives healthier and easier. But this same knowledge has dreadful potential for misuse. Those who work in the field of genetic engineering, for instance, are not too far from being able to clone human beings by taking parts out of embryos in order to create some kind of master race. Other scientists are working to create computers that appear to reason like men. These could open up vistas of great blessing, but they could also bring about horrors if placed in the hands of the wrong people. Add to this the ability of computers to monitor the behavior of populations and to control all of the world's money. These developments are fulfilling biblical prophecies. This tells me that we are getting very close to the time when God is going to say that the human race has gone far enough. He may be ready to step in to terminate this phase of human activity and to start another one.
That is why I firmly expect to be alive when Jesus Christ comes back to earth.
Who or What Is The Antichrist?
In the book of Revelation we are told that a dictator will arise from the revived Roman Empire. He will be endued with the power of Satan himself and will take unto himself the prerogatives of God (see Revelation 13:1-18). The apostle Paul said there would be someone who would stand in the temple of God, claiming that he was God (see II Thessalonians 2:4). Revelation amplifies this subject when it speaks of a false prophet who will stand in front of this dictator and do signs in his name, and also cause a statue of this dictator to perform miraculous signs (see Revelation 13:13-15, 19:20).
We do know that the book of Revelation was written during a time when Christians were being persecuted in the Roman Empire. We also know that the Roman emperors liked to think of themselves as gods. They even made statues of themselves and asked people to fall down and worship them. There is always the possibility that the Antichrist is already in the world. I believe those earlier dictators were merely representations of the final world dictator. This man will appear as a great leader, speaking great words of wisdom, and will draw all of the non-Christian people to worship him. To them he will be the sum of wisdom, with the answers to all their problems (see Revelation 13:18).
For an antichrist figure to come into the modern world, there must be a breakdown of the world system as we know it now. There would have to be breakdowns in currency, in law and order, and in the power structures of national states.
A financial panic could help pave the way for him. So could a nuclear war. Such disasters could leave people crying out for a man of peace, who will be Satan's counterfeit to Jesus Christ. This man will seem to be like Jesus, until such time as he is ready to show his true self. Then he will be incredibly cruel. He will be like a combination of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Genghis Khan, Mao Tse-tung, and other dictators who have butchered millions of people. The Antichrist will be the most hideous example of dictatorial power that the world has ever known.
Remember that the antichrist spirit is in anybody who tries to draw people away from Jesus, saying, "Worship me." The antichrist spirit is present now in the worship and veneration we give to governments, dictators, military leaders, and various other human figures. The humanism that is being taught in our schools, media, and intellectual circles will ultimately lead people to the Antichrist, because he will be the consummate figure of humanism.
Will Christians Have To Go Through The Great Tribulation?
When we use the term GREAT TRIBULATION, we are referring to a period of suffering that the world will be exposed to in the last days coinciding with the judgment of God upon the Antichrist and his government (see Revelation 6:1-17). Some theologians think that the Tribulation has already taken place. There was a great persecution of Christians and Jews during the Roman Empire. It is true, too, that some theologians believe that the Tribulation refers only to Israel or the Jewish people, and not to Christians or the rest of the world. If we assume that the Tribulation will be a future worldwide time of persecution, then I must say that Christians will indeed go through it. I do not find in the Bible the teaching that Christians will be "raptured" prior to the Tribulation.
The Bible teaches two comings of Jesus--one, His birth; the second, His coming again in triumph. There is no third coming for a secret rapture. The book of Matthew specifically says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days. ... Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven ... And He will send His angels ... And they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:29-31).
This is just one of many references that indicate we will be going through a time of tribulation until Jesus Christ comes back (see John 16:33, Romans 8:35, Revelation 7:13-14).
I do believe that Christians will be protected in the midst of tribulation, however. After all, the Israelites were protected when the plagues fell upon Egypt. God knows how to make a distinction between His people and those who are not His people. He allowed sorrow and suffering to rain upon the ungodly in Egypt while He caused the children of Israel to prosper.
But we must recognize also that the devil and his emissaries despise Christians. There has always been a struggle between the people of God and those who serve Satan. Throughout history there have been successive martyrdoms of Christians, and it is the height of arrogance to assume that only twentieth-century Christians in the United States of America will be spared any kind of persecution. That goes against the flow of history for the last two thousand years. The book of Revelation speaks of Tribulation martyrs--those who were slain for the witness of Christ--standing near the great throne of God and crying out, "How long ... Until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth" (Revelation 6:9-10)? So there will be people during the Tribulation who love Jesus, and who will give their lives for Him.
Jesus said, "He who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). Persecution is simply part of living as a Christian in this world. The saints in China, Russia, and other Communist countries have been tortured, have suffered privation, have had their jobs and their families taken away from them. Many of them have already died because of their witness for Jesus. It is hard to contemplate much worse tribulation than these great men and women of faith have already endured.
What Is The Mark of The Beast?
In the book of Revelation there is reference to the number of the Antichrist, which is 666 (see Revelation 13:18). SIX, in biblical numerology, is just short of perfection, represented by the number SEVEN. SIX is the number of man, whereas SEVEN is the number of perfection. So 666 may refer to the quintessential humanist. Revelation tells us that the number 666, or the mark of the Antichrist, is going to be stamped upon the hand and the forehead of every person in the world during the reign of the Antichrist.
The forehead represents our wills, our volition; while the hand represents our activities. Somehow the Antichrist will get his imprint on people everywhere, causing them, through their wills and their actions, to serve him. We already have techniques whereby an imprint can be made on the hands and foreheads of human beings. This imprint can be read by lasers and can contain all the credit information on an individual, and his blood type, his city of residence, and other vital information.
Computer technology can be used to control population, credit, and the movement of people. So-called "smart cards," which have tiny microchips in them that contain biographical data and revisable credit information, can be implanted under the skin. Every time a person makes a purchase, the "smart card" can deduct the amount from a credit balance, and every time the person deposits money, it can be added to the credit balance. Everyone's record can then be stored in a giant interconnected computer system.
It is not too far-fetched to think that the Antichrist could impose population control by the same kind of a mark. In the words of the book of Revelation, "And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:16-17).
The Bible warns us that if we have the mark of the Beast, we will then share the terrible fate of the Beast (see Revelation 14:11). If we regard the forehead as the center of the will and the hand as being symbolic of what we do, it seems that the mark is more than just some computer laser imprint. What we are really talking about here is who gets our allegiance. Will we give the Antichrist our minds and our work? If our allegiance is to God, we will not serve the Antichrist, and we will not take his mark upon us.
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