Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
On 10th February a drone was fired into Israel from a base in Syria by Iranian forces stationed there. Israel shot the drone down, then launched an air attack to destroy the base from which the drone was fired in central Syria. Israeli F16s came under fire from Syrian air defences and one was shot down. Israel then launched a second wave of attack on Syria destroying 12 targets, 8 Iranian and 4 Syrian claiming to have destroyed half of Syria’s anti-aircraft facilities. Many of the installations Israel hit were secret ones, showing how well Israel’s intelligence has penetrated Iranian activities in Syria.
The incident has led many to say that war between Israel and Iran is inevitable. Israel claims Iran is creating a land corridor through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon bringing its forces up to the borders of Israel and giving it bases from which to attack Israel. Israeli PM Netanyahu has said he will not tolerate this development. As well as building up its force of around 82,000 fighters in Syria, Iran has also supplied Hezbollah in Lebanon with around 150,000 missiles, aimed at Israel. They are now planning to build a factory in Lebanon which will turn these missiles into highly accurate ones able to hit specific buildings. This would make them a huge threat to Israel in the event of war breaking out. Israel has threatened to destroy this factory in Lebanon before it is able to go into production.
Iran has made many statements calling for the destruction of Israel. Ayatollah Khomeini said ‘Israel must be wiped from the face of the earth’. Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Mousavi has said Israel will be destroyed, with Iran playing its part in ensuring this will happen ‘with the help of the great Lord’. Iran and its Lebanese client Hezbollah backed a conference of 700 Islamic scholars gathered in Beirut to discuss the future of the movement to destroy Israel. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, wrote a letter to the congress, urging, all individuals to fight ‘against the usurper Zionist Regime.’ He called it a ‘holy fight’ with certain victory promised against the ‘enemy Zionist entity.’
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have established a new militia named Brigade 313 in Southern Syria. The number 313 is significant and links up to Iran’s expectation of the coming of the Mahdi, the saviour figure who will appear at the end of days in Islamic belief. According to tradition in Shiite Islam, 313 is the number of fighters that will arrive with the Mahdi. In the Iranian Shiite version of the Mahdi story he will lead the battle against Sunni Muslim adversaries, invade Israel and take over Jerusalem.
It is not all going Iran’s way however. Back home there is growing unrest against the corrupt and repressive rule of the Islamic regime. An Iranian dissident, Shahriar Kia, writes: ‘The nationwide protests that began in Iran in December 2017 continue. This is a major wake-up call for Iran’s authorities and the international community. Iran is literally a political, social and economic time bomb closing in on a colossal detonation. This young and restive nation will no longer tolerate the domestic crackdown and international terrorism Iran’s mullahs are known for as protests against the religious dictators ruling Iran are growing.’ Protesters are angry that Iran’s money is being used for foreign adventures, supporting terrorism and dictators in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, rather than improving the living standards of the Iranian people. Most Iranians do not support the Islamic regime’s ideology or its adventures in the Middle East, including its manic hatred of Israel.
Saudi Arabia is the major Sunni Muslim power in the Middle East and is totally opposed to Iran’s activity in the Middle East. What is being played out across the region is the latest round of Islam’s 1400 year old civil war between Sunnis and Shi’ites. A secular Sunni scholar, Bassam Tibi, told an Israeli audience at Bar Ilan University: ‘Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran has been filling the vacuum created by the removal of Saddam Hussein. The Syrian conflict has been transformed into a sectarian-religious war, with the Shiite minority imposing itself on the Sunni majority with the help of Iran and the Russians. Iran has been expanding its power. Today, there are two blocs in the Middle East: the Sunni and Shi’a blocs. The strongest bloc, even though Shi’as are the minority, is the Shi’a bloc. The Saudis are unable to meet the Iranian challenge. Iran now controls Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.’
This situation now means that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies no longer see Israel as the threat, but see it as a potential ally to stop Iran with whom they can cooperate on shared concerns. This is the view held by Saudi Arabia’s new young ruler. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is much warmer to Israel and has even made comments supporting the Jewish claim to Jerusalem. He recognises that the two nations have a common enemy (Iran) and a shared interest in thwarting terrorism. He has developed an apparently close friendship with Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, who is leading the latest US peace plan for the Middle East.
In addition he is introducing the most sweeping reforms ever seen in Saudi Arabia, trying to root out corruption, and support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia. Commenting on this the Gatestone Institute writes: ‘The Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, has been the birthplace of nearly every radical Islamist group in the past century — from Egyptian Islamic Jihad to al Qaeda. The Brotherhood came to power in Cairo, following the departure of Hosni Mubarak, and only lost its grip due to a Saudi-funded coup. Inside Saudi Arabia, the organisation’s intellectual and financial influence is vast. It has shaped the thought of at least two generations of Saudis, and it counts many allies among the kingdom’s 15,000 princes and even more among its 20,000 major clerics. It also has a literal army of armed supporters. Bin Salman is kicking a dragon and he knows it. The stakes of his fight with the Brotherhood could not be higher. If he succeeds, Saudi Arabia will return to its pre 1979 roots, with movie theatres, women in the workplace, and features of a modern developing country. If he fails, he will be killed by the Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia will become more repressive than ever. The global stakes of his internal fight with the Brotherhood are large, too. If the crown price wins, nearly all Saudi funding for violent Islamic radicals ends — and if he dies, it grows to new heights.’
Did Ezekiel see this coming?
So does all this have a bearing on the prophecy of Ezekiel 38-9, the War of Gog and Magog prophesied for the end of days? We have already written about this in our Autumn 2017 edition (available on request). In this war an alliance of nations comes down from the north to invade Israel. It is led by a great power coming from the uttermost north (Russia) with many allies, notably Persia / Iran and Togarmah (modern Turkey), plus allied Muslim countries. (Note: Turkey has just moved its troops inside Syria to pursue its fight against the Kurds).
One possible scenario which will provoke this war is an Israeli pre-emptive attack on the missile bases in Lebanon and Syria which Iran and its ally Hezbollah have set up. A foretaste of this happened in the incident described above in February. In the process this causes the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 17.1 that Damascus will be ‘a ruinous heap’. The forces now coming into Syria then combine to form an army to invade Israel.
When this army comes against Israel, there is an opposition to it, which protests against this action (although their intervention does not amount to much more than words): ‘Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you, ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?’”’ Ezekiel 38.13. One interpretation of the identity of ‘the merchants of Tarshish and all their young lions’ is that it is Britain, America and allies. Sheba and Dedan are much easier to identify, being both regions of the Arabian peninsula, therefore modern Saudi Arabia. In this case the current changes in Saudi Arabia are very significant. The Saudis join with the western allies in protesting against the Magog alliance, comprising Russia, Iran and allies.
The question, ‘Have you come to take plunder?’ is interesting. Russia has a concern that relates to Israeli oil and gas deposits discovered off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea. Israel is planning a pipeline to Europe via Cyprus and Greece to bring this oil into the EU. Russia sees this a threat to its own oil and gas supplies to Europe, which it is heavily dependent upon for its economy. One possibility which has been raised by prophetic interpreters is that Russia wants to take control of these resources itself to guarantee its dominance of the European market and save its economy.
Whatever the case, when this invasion comes, Israel is saved by God’s intervention (not by the protest of Sheba, Dedan and the merchants of Tarshish):
‘And it will come to pass at the same time, when Gog comes against the land of Israel,’ says the Lord God, ‘that My fury will show in My face. For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath I have spoken … And I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed; I will rain down on him, on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him, flooding rain, great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus I will magnify Myself and sanctify Myself, and I will be known in the eyes of many nations. Then they shall know that I am the Lord.’’ Ezekiel 38.14-23.
This will then lead to the peace treaty with Israel which the coming antichrist will sign (Daniel 9.27). He will rise to power out of the revived Roman Empire, which appears to be a western alliance, the EU, USA or some realignment of NATO powers. He will be unopposed following the defeat of Russia, Iran and allies in the War of Gog and Magog. Saudi Arabia is the leading Sunni Muslim power in the Middle East nation and will end up in a strong position after this war. It will not oppose this peace settlement, as it follows through on its more sympathetic view of Israel described above. In fact Saudi Arabia is already urging the Palestinians to accept the peace plan being drawn up by the Americans.
This has a bearing on the question of the Temple in Jerusalem. The war of Gog and Magog could change the situation on the Temple Mount. At present Muslim control makes it impossible for Israel to rebuild the Temple. Ezekiel’s prophecy speaks of a great earthquake in the land of Israel ‘in which the mountains shall be thrown down, the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground.’ Ezekiel 38.20. If this earthquake affects the Temple Mount area, it could bring down the Al Aqsa mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall. It is possible that with Saudi and Jordanian agreement, the way will be made for Israel to rebuild its Temple in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount, alongside a rebuilt Al Aqsa mosque. Israel would be motivated to do this in gratitude to God for their deliverance in the War of Gog and Magog, while the Muslim opposition to this project is broken by the defeat of the armies of the northern alliance and the changed attitude of Saudi Arabia and its allies to Israel.
This also leads to Israel being double crossed by the antichrist as he puts his image in the holy place (‘the abomination of desolation’ of Matthew 24.15-22), triggering the final period of the Great Tribulation and the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30.5-11). This period comes to an end with the coming of the Lord, to save Israel at the final battle when all the nations will gather together against Jerusalem:
‘Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. … Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You. … And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be— ‘The Lord is one and His name one.’ Zechariah 14.3-9.
Jesus said, ‘Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.28. The end time events have ‘begun to happen.’ How long it will be before the fulfilment of these things, only God knows, but the events in the Middle East are yet another sign of the soon coming of the Lord Jesus.
Persecution of Christians.
About 215 million Christians are being persecuted for their faith, according to the World Watch List, Open Doors’ annual report ranking the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted. Released at the beginning of each year, the list uses data from Open Doors field workers and external experts to quantify and analyse persecution worldwide. Countries are ranked by the severity of persecution of Christians, calculated by analysing the level of violent persecution plus the pressure experienced in five spheres of life: church life, national life, community life, family life and private life.
Unsurprisingly, North Korea was ranked number one on the list for the 16th consecutive year. For three generations, everything in the country focused on idolising the leading Kim family, and as a result Christians are seen as hostile elements in society that needs to be eradicated.
The list’s number one cause of Christian persecution is the spread of radical Islam. Out of the top 10 countries with the highest rate of Christian persecution, Islamic oppression fuels that persecution in eight of them: Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. While Christianity traces its birthplace to the Middle East, that region has become the most hostile area for the religion in recent years. Israel itself does not feature in the list and is a safe place for its Arab Christian population, but most of Israel’s neighbours, including Egypt, Syria and the Palestinian territories, are dangerous places for Christians. According to Open Doors, every day, six women are raped, sexually harassed or are forced into marriage to a Muslim under threat of death due to their Christian faith.
The two most populous countries in the world, India and China, have moved up the list, showing that persecution of Christians has increased in those countries. Surprisingly India comes in at number 11 on the list as Hindu extremists target believers who have become Christians from a Hindu background. These believers face harassment and have been beaten, hospitalised and even killed. Christians are also facing increasing pressure on a national level. Five states have implemented anti-conversion laws and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have made no secret of their desire to make these laws nation-wide. These laws make the preaching of the Gospel into a crime and forbid or make it very difficult for people to leave the majority religion, Hinduism, and become Christians. Such laws are often used as an excuse to disrupt church services and harass Christians.
In China Communist authorities are increasing restrictions on Christians in order to stop the growth of Christianity which the Communists see as a threat to their ideological control. House churches are pushed to join the state-controlled Three Self Churches, and new regulations on religion limit freedom.
There is increasing persecution in the former Soviet central Asian states with a combination of Islamic hostility and the former Communist anti-Christian measures in place. In Uzbekistan churches require registration, but no permits have been issued since 1999 and some churches have had their permits and buildings confiscated. Homes are bugged, phones tapped and groups infiltrated to monitor unregistered churches, and they are in constant danger of being raided. Christians face oppressively high fines if they are caught possessing Christian materials or conducting services that aren’t state sanctioned. The government of Kazakhstan has cracked down on evangelical Christians under the guise of preventing ‘extremism’. Members of Protestant churches are seen as followers of ‘destructive religious movements undermining the current political system. Dozens of Christians were arrested in 2017. Church meetings are often disrupted and raided, especially in unregistered churches which are considered illegal. In Kyrgystan children are not permitted to be involved, and amended laws may require 500 members before they can register. Believers from Muslim backgrounds have been locked up by their families, beaten and exiled from their communities; most keep their faith secret.
In five countries where the main dominant religion is Christianity, there is still a high level of persecution. In the African states of Ethiopia, Kenya and Central African Republic, Islamic oppression is rampant. In Mexico and Colombia organised crime and corruption have created an environment that is hostile to Christian expression in the public domain and seeks to eliminate Christian involvement in social and political discourse.
In many western nations there is a growing intolerance towards active Christians who wish to stand up for their faith and spread the Gospel. Christian values and teaching clash with the demands of ‘political correctness’ and ‘diversity’ when it is required to believe that ‘all gods are equal’ and all lifestyles are valid and acceptable to God. In our last edition we featured the case of a Christian teacher in Oxford, Joshua Sutcliffe. His popular Bible study group that was attended by 100 children was shut down by the school authorities after he described marriage as being between a man and a woman in answer to a pupil’s question. He was then suspended for accidentally calling a transgender pupil a ‘girl’ rather than a ‘boy’. For 19 years Paul Son volunteered as a Christian chaplain at Brixton prison in London, holding classes, attended by up to 70 prisoners, who greatly benefitted from his teaching. These were closed down and he was then banned from the prison, after a Muslim senior chaplain was appointed, who wanted to wipe out ‘Christian domination’ at the prison. Such anti-Christian measures are becoming common in Europe and North America.
All of this happening is another sign of the coming of the Lord Jesus. He said, ‘But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost.’ Luke 21.12-18.
In response we need to stand up for those who are persecuted, help them as we are able and be ready ourselves to stand for Jesus in the midst of a world which has lost its way and is heading for destruction. The world may fight against the Lord Jesus, but He is the only hope for this last generation before his return.
Should we prepare now for the Apocalypse?
Millions of Americans are. Somewhere between four to twenty million people (numbers vary according to where you get your information from) are ‘preppers.’ These people are ‘prepping’ (preparing) for life after some kind of collapse of society, as featured in doomsday films depicting ‘the end of the world as we know it.’ They are planning how to survive this scenario.
Potential causes of this include a collapse of the global economic system leading to a breakdown of law and order, environmental calamity, multiple earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, an asteroid strike or nuclear explosions causing mass casualties. One of the most persistent fears in the USA is of a rogue state detonating an EMP weapon (Electromagnetic pulse) over the country. This could knock out its electric grid and send it back to the pre-industrial age with no back up to keep society running. The result would be no electricity, basic services, transport and communications, leaving empty shops, little or no food and social chaos in which millions would die.
There are also fears of this happening in Britain. Sir Nick Carter, Britain’s defence chief of general staff, said the country is now vulnerable to both a military and cyber-attack executed by Russia. Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, said Russia could cause ‘thousands and thousands and thousands’ of deaths if it crippled the power supply. Picking up on this story Ben Farmer wrote in the Daily Telegraph (17/3/18): ‘British cities would be uninhabitable within days and the country is only a few meals from anarchy if the National Grid was taken down in a cyber-attack or solar storm, disaster and security experts have warned. Modern life is so reliant on electricity that a prolonged blackout would quickly lead to a loss of water, fuel, banking, transport and communications that would leave the country ‘in the Stone Age’.
Warnings like these are making people look to ‘prepper’ websites, giving advice on how to survive such disaster situations. They offer for sale all kinds of equipment required, like water purifiers, emergency generators, advice on preserving food and so on. In the backwoods of America they are building a network of ‘doomsday camps’ which are pulling in members from affluent areas and even Washington national security officials as the threats grow from nuclear war, an EMP or virus attack. Called Fortitude Ranch, the outposts promise protection and a year’s supply of food for those unable to build their own bunker. Each camp is expected to house 50-500 in a crisis and they will have lodges, underground bunkers and armed guard towers to defend the compounds from intruders. Self-defence is a big issue for US preppers, many of whom stock up with guns and ammunition to protect themselves and their supplies from desperate marauders who have made no such provision to survive the breakdown of society.
It’s not just these US ‘preppers’ who worry about such disasters happening. Though most people just carry on with life as normal, more and more people around the world sense that humanity is heading for some kind of catastrophe. The Bible warns that in the days before Jesus Christ returns to the earth the world will be hit by a series of calamities, described in the Book of Revelation. Evidence that the world is heading this way is seen in the signs happening now, which announce the soon coming return of the Lord Jesus. For example:
- The return of the Jewish people to Israel and the controversy around who should rule Jerusalem (Ezekiel 36, Zechariah 12, Luke 21.20-33).
- The increase in wars, famines and earthquakes around the world (Matthew 24.6-8)
- The development of technology and travel pushing towards a globalised world and a new way of buying and selling without cash (Daniel 12.4, Revelation 13).
- Violence and sexual immorality on the increase as in the days of Noah and Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17.26-36, Genesis 6).
- Environmental problems leading to people being afraid of what is coming on the earth (Isaiah 24, Luke 21.25-8, Revelation 8.7-12).
When these things begin to happen on the earth, Jesus warned us that they will reach this climax at the end of the age: ‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.’ Matthew 24.21-22.
Chapters 6 to 19 of the Book of Revelation fill in the details of what to expect in this time. According to Revelation 6 the four horsemen of the apocalypse will ride out, bringing power to the antichrist, then war, famine and the death of a quarter of the earth’s population. Revelation 8-9 describes the trumpet judgements in which there will be massive destruction of the environment, trees burned up, fish dying in the sea and the waters being polluted and undrinkable. In the course of these judgements another third of humanity will die (Revelation 9.18).
Revelation 13-14 tells us that the beast or antichrist will be given power by the dragon (Satan) and will ‘make war with the saints and overcome them’. He will bring in a dictatorship in which those who oppose his rule will face imprisonment and death. His way of controlling society will feature a new system of buying and selling, which will involve a mark connected to a number being given to people without which they will not be able to buy or sell (the Mark of the Beast / 666).
Finally, the armies of the world will gather at Armageddon (Revelation 16.12-16). At this point the Lord Jesus will return to the earth with his saints, destroy the beast and his armies and set up His Messianic kingdom on earth (Revelation 19-20).
Many people do not want to hear about this subject because it frightens them. However Jesus did warn us that things would be happening before His return which will cause people to be afraid of what is coming on the earth:
‘And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.25-25.
But God also tells those who believe in Him not to be afraid:
‘Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41.10.
‘These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ John 16.33.
Jesus gave this word to the church at Philadelphia which is a type of the faithful church in the end times:
‘Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.’ Revelation 3.10-11.
How will He keep us from the hour of trial?
This verse from Revelation 3 raises this question which has two possible answers and points to two different views amongst those who believe we are heading towards the fulfilment of the end time prophecies of the Bible. In both views the ‘hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world’ is interpreted as the Great Tribulation period, which the Lord Jesus revealed to John in the following chapters of Revelation.
According to the pre-tribulation rapture view, the Lord will keep born again Christians from the hour of trial by taking them out of the world in the event known as the rapture of the church:
‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’ 1 Thessalonians 4.13-16.
When this happens, millions of people, who believe that the Lord Jesus died for their sins and rose again from the dead, will be supernaturally taken out of the earth to meet the Lord. According to the pre-tribulation view, this event comes first and is followed by the great tribulation on earth. In this case those who believe now in Jesus as Saviour and Lord will not be present in the Great Tribulation, and so they will be kept ‘from the hour of trial.’ Following the rapture there will be a large number of people who will accept Jesus as Saviour (Revelation 7). These ones will face the tribulation period and need to be prepared for it.
According to the post-tribulation view, the rapture of 1 Thessalonians is seen as the same event as Matthew 24.29-31 which is stated to be ‘immediately after the tribulation of those days’ when the Lord ‘will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.’ In this case the promise of Revelation 3.10-11 does not mean that Lord will keep His people from the hour of trial by taking them out of the world, but rather that He will keep His people in the hour of trial, as the church goes through the tribulation. For those who take this view, there is a motivation to be prepared physically for the tribulation period.
The Greek text of Revelation 3.10 does support the idea of being kept from the hour of trial rather than being kept in it. However let us suppose it does mean that the Lord will keep us in the hour of trial and the church will go through the tribulation. In this case, what preparation should we make?
Be ready to die.
The first and most obvious one from reading the Book of Revelation is that we should be ready to die. If we take the passages which give figures for the people who die in the calamities that strike the earth at this time (Revelation 6.8 and 9.18), roughly half the world’s population will die in these disasters (and there are other causes of death which will add to this total). Of course in normal times everybody dies eventually, but this will not be a normal time. Mass casualties will run into millions of people killed by wars, famines, natural disasters and plagues, causing people to be in fear and shock.
How to be ready to die? Firstly recognise that it is going to happen, and that after death we face the judgment of God: ‘As it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.’ Hebrews 9.27-8. Jesus paid the price for our sins, when He died on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world, so those who have this faith do not need to fear death, because it is the gateway into a far more wonderful life than anything we could experience on earth. If we reject Jesus Christ, then death is a fearful prospect, in which we face the judgement of God and eternal hell, since we are all guilty of sin against God.
What about those who survive these calamities? However bad the situation is in the tribulation time, there will be survivors of it. Jesus said in Matthew 24.13 ‘He who endures to the end will be saved.’ One interpretation of this is that those believers who endure and survive to the end of the tribulation will be rescued by the Lord at His Second Coming to the earth. Therefore it may be prudent to make some provision for survival, as the preppers are doing now, although it is unlikely that any such provisions will be sufficient for what is coming on the earth. What is most important is to develop a trust in the Lord through prayer and obedience to His word, so that He is able to guide and provide what is needed for survival.
Those who do survive will face fearful things coming on the earth. Jesus spoke of ‘men’s hearts failing them for fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth.’ Luke 21.26. The antidote to fear is faith, trusting Jesus as they call upon His name for deliverance from evil. Jesus also says, ‘When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads for your redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.28. The tribulation is a short time (seven years in total, with the final three and a half years being the more severe time of trouble). By the time these events hit the world it will be a short time until Jesus returns in power and glory to put an end to the troubles of this world.
Be ready for persecution.
According to Revelation 7 there will be a great number of people who come to faith in Jesus during the tribulation period. At the very beginning of the seven year period 144,000 Jewish men will come to believe in the Lord Jesus as the Messiah. Out of their witness to Jesus there will be ‘a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb … saying ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’’ It is possible that the event of the rapture itself will be a factor in these people coming to faith, as they understand the significance of the sudden disappearance of millions of people and accept Jesus as Saviour.
As the events of the tribulation develop and the power of the antichrist increases they will face persecution, imprisonment and martyrdom:
‘It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.’ Revelation 13.7-10.
He will bring in the 666 ‘mark of the beast’ economic system:
‘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. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.’ Revelation 13.16-18.
Taking the mark is connected to worship of the beast (Revelation 13.16-18).
What this means is that those who are alive at this time and believe in the Lord Jesus must be prepared for imprisonment, death or exclusion from society for their faith. This means they must believe that their faith is the most valuable thing they have and that they are willing to give up anything, including their lives, for it. They must believe Jesus’ words when He says, ‘And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.’ Matthew 10.28.
Whatever the mark of the beast turns out to be, those who are alive at this time must not take it, because taking it means facing the wrath of God and eternal damnation. Revelation 14.10-11. At the same time there is a word of comfort to those who do not take it and stay faithful to Jesus, that they will have an eternal reward in the presence of the Lord:
‘Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labours, and their works follow them.’ Revelation 14.12-13.
How does anyone prepare for such things? Be ready to suffer and die for your faith if called to, recognise that eternity is real, both heaven and hell, and understand that we need to be faithful to Jesus no matter what it costs us. Also we should know that there is a greater power available to the humblest believer in the Lord Jesus than all the power of Satan which is manifesting at this time. This power comes by the Holy Spirit whom the Lord sent into the world to be with those who call on His name for salvation.
Be ready for deception.
One of the major features of this time will be spiritual deception. Jesus said, ‘For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.’ Matthew 24.24-5.
Paul writes how people will be deceived by false signs and wonders causing them to believe the lie:
‘The coming of the lawless one (antichrist) is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.’ 2 Thessalonians 2.9-12.
The lie Paul refers to here will cause people to reject the truth that Jesus is the Saviour to whom we must look with repentance and faith. Instead they will look to the antichrist as the saviour and even as god.
Why should people look to him in this way? Although I have written of calamities coming in the tribulation period, it also appears that in the first stage of the tribulation period, the antichrist will bring a temporary fix to the problems coming on the world. This will cause the world to marvel at him and worship him (Revelation 13.3-4, 17.8). The devil will give him power and authority: ‘The dragon (Satan) gave him his power, his throne, and great authority’. Revelation 13.2. It also appears that he will experience some kind of counterfeit death and resurrection: ‘And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marvelled and followed the beast.’ Revelation 13.3, see also verse 14.
The starting point of the seven year countdown to the Second Coming is a covenant he makes with Israel (Daniel 9.27, Isaiah 28.14-22) by which he makes a peace settlement to the world’s most intractable problem, the Arab – Israeli conflict. At the beginning of the tribulation period he appears riding a white horse having a bow and going out conquering and to conquer (Revelation 6.2).
Commentators see this as a global peace movement causing people to say ‘Peace and Safety.’ This will however be a false peace, followed by ‘sudden destruction’ (1 Thessalonians 5.3). The white horse will be followed by the red horse, which will ‘take peace from the earth’ and cause people to kill one another (Revelation 6.4). The conclusion of the seven year tribulation period will be the armies of the world gathering to ‘the battle of that great day of God Almighty’ (Armageddon) where they will meet the returning Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 19.11-21).
The antichrist will be backed by a ‘woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy’ known as ‘Mystery Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.’ (Revelation 17.1-6). This is a coming together of world religions, which will support the antichrist as the man of peace. The woman arrayed in purple and scarlet suggests a connection with Rome and the Papacy, with its cardinals and bishops dressed in purple and scarlet. It will be more than Rome though, as it brings together all religious systems. Interestingly today the Pope is looking to bring together world religions in the cause of peace.
This religious system will be deceiving as it directs people to reject Jesus as the Saviour and Lord and promotes the agenda of the antichrist. It will deny the central truth of the Gospel, that the Lord Jesus is the unique Son of God, who through His death and resurrection made the one way of salvation through repentance and faith in Him. People within this system may call themselves Christian but they will deny Jesus’ statement, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.’ John 14.6. This religious system will also be deceived itself, as Revelation 17.16-7 concludes with the antichrist turning on the harlot and destroying her.
The antichrist will offer some kind of fix to the world’s economic problems. This will relate to the 666 ‘Mark of the Beast’ system of Revelation 13.16-28. In the process he will gain control of the global economy which will give him power over the governments of the world. Revelation 18 implies that the global trading system, identified as Babylon, will survive up to end of the tribulation period, despite the disasters coming on the earth. There will be those who ‘become rich through the abundance of her luxury’ (Revelation 18.3, see also James 5.1-8), while multitudes will be living in desperate poverty and famine. In the end it will collapse, as Babylon falls and ‘the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her for no one buys their merchandise any more.’ Revelation 18.11.
Some Bible teachers are saying that the antichrist will use advanced technologies to implement all this. Britt Gillette has written a book ‘Racing toward Armageddon – Why advanced technology signals the end times’ in which he proposes that the antichrist will use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to come to power. He refers to the ‘transhumanist movement’, which is looking to link the body up to machines / computers. He writes, ‘Many people believe this will lead to the emergence of ‘post biological humans.’ These are people who are able to use technology to ‘upgrade’ their bodies, increasing their brain power and physical ability to exceed anything a person of today can imagine. The end result? A human race with abilities far in excess of what we see today, they appear god-like.’
He also proposes that new technologies are opening up the way for missiles to be disabled before they are used. He says this could lead to the global peace movement led by antichrist. This will bring in a global government as he uses these new technological powers to take over the world. Advanced technology, biometrics and the development of ‘crypto-currencies’ could be used to implement the 666 economic system as cash becomes obsolete and financial transactions are done through a link-up between human and machine. Interestingly in 2017 Russian President Putin said, ‘Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.’
This is an interesting possibility and whether this is how the antichrist gets his power remains to be seen. The Bible does make it clear that the ultimate source of his power is the one whom the Lord Jesus calls ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12.31), Satan or the Devil. This power and authority will be limited: ‘For the devil has come down to you having great wrath, because he knows he has a short time.’ Revelation 12.12.
There is a way to overcome him available to believers in Jesus: ‘And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives unto the death.’ Revelation 12.11-12. The power to overcome Satan is given to those who have faith in Jesus, that He is the Saviour and Lord, who shed His blood for us at the cross to save us from our sins and rose from the dead to give eternal life to all who believe in His name. During the time of the tribulation those who bear testimony to their faith in Jesus may well do so at the cost of their lives and will need to ‘love not their lives unto death’ (i.e. be willing to die for their faith).
To sum up preparing for the apocalypse according to this view of scripture means we must
- Be ready to die by accepting Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
- Be ready to suffer for our faith, to the point of death if called to.
- Know the truth of the Word of God and resist the deceptions of antichrist.
Preparation for His coming if the rapture comes first.
According to the pre-tribulation view of end time prophecy, the rapture comes first, followed by the tribulation and the physical return of Christ to the earth. This means that the believing church will be taken out of the world before the Great Tribulation begins.
This will be a literal event affecting millions of people who are believers in Jesus as the Messiah. They will be delivered from the wrath of God which is coming on this world (1 Thessalonians 1.10). They will be suddenly removed from the earth by the Lord and taken to meet Him ‘in the air’, (somewhere in the heavens). They will receive a new eternal body which will not be subject to death and decay (1 Corinthians 15.35-58). They will go to be with the Lord in heaven from where they will return with the Lord at His second coming to the earth (Jude 14-15, Revelation 19.11-16). They will reign with Him in His millennial kingdom. Revelation 5.10, 20.4-6. Following this they will be with Him in heaven for eternity.
Those who take the pre-tribulation view should be ready for this event to happen. Jesus said: ‘Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’ Matthew 24.44. The most important preparation we need to make for His coming is to accept Jesus now as our Saviour and Lord, so that we are ready to meet Him when He comes. This event could happen at any time, so we should always be ready for the coming of the Lord. The same applies to the moment of our death, so we should be continually ready for that event also.
In the light of this we should live new lives of purity and separation from sin, so that we are in a right relationship with the Lord and ready to meet Him. John wrote:
‘Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.’ 1 John 3.1-3.
The prophetic scriptures reveal that the days leading up to the return of the Lord will be days of increasing wickedness (Matthew 24.12) as in the days before the Flood and before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17.22-30). Those who are looking for the imminent return of Jesus the Messiah should prepare for this by purifying themselves and separating themselves from this corrupt society which is heading for destruction. This we do by repenting of our sins as we turn to Jesus who is able to cleanse us from sin by the blood He shed and are baptised in His name on confession of our faith. We should then ask Him to fill us with the Holy Spirit that we might live our lives to His praise and glory.
Paul wrote that we should be ‘looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.’ Titus 2.13-14. One of the good works He wants us to do is to make known God’s plan of salvation, so that we can help people to leave the sinking ship of the present world system and get on to the lifeboat of salvation through repentance and faith in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the parable of the talents in Luke 19.12-13, Jesus says: ‘A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.’ Jesus Himself is the nobleman in this parable, who is going away into heaven after His death and resurrection, from where He will return to judge the world at His Second Coming. The point of the parable is to invest what has been given us in the kingdom of God in order to bring others into the kingdom. In other words to preach the Gospel so that others may be saved and so made ready for His coming. Again this has a universal message for all time, that we should make use of our lives to serve the Lord and make the Gospel known (Matthew 28.18-20, Ephesians 5.15-16).
To sum up, the three main ways to prepare for the coming of the Lord if the rapture comes first are:
- Salvation. Be ready for His coming by accepting Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
- Sanctification. Purify our lives by repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus and be filled with the Holy Spirit to live a new life of obedience to Him.
- Evangelism. Make known the Gospel message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Those of us who believe this will not have a great motivation for how to prepare physically by laying up material goods to help them survive the Great Tribulation, because we won’t be there. However we recognise that there will be hard times before the rapture and the tribulation, as we see in the article above about the persecution of Christians. Therefore we should also take on board the need to be ready to suffer for our faith and to resist deception, as I have said earlier in relation to the church going through the Great Tribulation. The Lord may also lead to make some material provision for troubled times coming.
As readers of this magazine will know, I believe there are good reasons to take the pre-tribulation view of the rapture. I have written about it in past editions of the magazine (available on request), which are also to be found on our website www.lightforthelastdays.co.uk. We have a DVD presentation on ‘The Rapture, the Tribulation and the Millennial Rule of Messiah’ available for £12 including postage.
At the same time I recognise that there are sincere believers who take the alternative view. I also acknowledge that since these events have not yet happened, there has to be some room for disagreement as to which interpretation is correct. If I am wrong about the timing of the rapture, then we should be ready to suffer in the coming time of tribulation. Since this magazine is also read by non-believers in Jesus, I would remind you that all non-believers who are alive at that time will go through the Great Tribulation. (But I would also say, please stop being a non-believer and put your trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord now!).
Whatever our view of the outworking of prophecy, we should look ‘for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ His coming is as certain as the dawn. He will come back this time not as the Suffering Servant to lay down His life as a sacrifice for our sins, but as the King of kings and Lord of lords, with all the power of God at His disposal. When it comes to the final showdown between the Lord Jesus Christ and the devil and the antichrist, it will be no contest. Our Man, our Lord, will win in a moment of time as the beast and the false prophet are thrown straight into hell, their armies utterly defeated and their captain, Satan, bound and unable to deceive the nations. In that day ‘The kingdom of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ / Messiah, and He shall reign forever and ever!’ Revelation 11.15. Hallelujah!
Jesus said ‘When you see these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads because your redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.28. ‘These things’ are the events leading to the Second Coming. They have begun to happen. Jesus is coming again soon. So be ready for His return!