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"Watch, therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
The words of Jesus, addressed to His disciples, His closest followers.
A Problem in the Church
There has been a trend away from really believing in the Second Coming of Christ among Christians in the past twenty years. This trend was briefly reversed by the approach of the Year 2000, and the Y2K Bug hysteria. Since nothing has happened that amounted to a fulfillment of Prophecy, belief in the Second Coming is on the decline again. There are, of course, many Christians who still take the subject seriously. But it is not the main theme of modern Christianity. Much of the talk about Second Coming Prophecy is just that, talk, and nothing more. The main theme of the Christian message today is having a better life in the here and now. Just take a look at what is offered in most Christian bookstores. People want revival, but they want it only so that life will be better, not because they want to please God and be ready.
BABEL RISING! - Reasons to believe that Jesus must come soon.
There is reason to believe that the Second Coming not only will, but in fact must, take place within the next half century or so, or it never will. Note that this is not setting dates. This is an estimate based on circumstances. The theological reasons why are based on the story of the Tower of Babel, and specifically the reason why God confused the languages.
In Genesis 11:5 & 6, (TLB) we read,
"But when God came down to see the city and the tower that mankind was building, he said, 'Look! If they are able to accomplish all this when they have just begun to exploit their linguistic and political unity...
...just think of what they will do later.
Nothing will be unattainable for them!' "
Linking this idea to the fact that we are created in God's image (Genesis 1:27), and that everything we think of is tainted with evil (Genesis 6:5 and 8:21), we come to the conclusion that our corrupt creativity can be a threat to God's plan of salvation for the human race. Especially when we have unity and unlimited communication. Given those conditions, our creative potential is unlimited, at least in the material sense rivaling that of God Himself. God confused the languages of the people at Babel to disrupt their unity and thus frustrate their creativity.
The idea of man's creativity being the result of our being created in God's image is well known. Modern man also believes in the unlimited nature of his mental powers. This is illustrated in two modern proverbs, one from the New Age Movement, and the other from the NASA Space Program:
"What Mind Can Conceive, Man Can Achieve",
"The difficult we do immediately,
The impossible may take a little longer."
With these proverbs, mankind is saying of itself collectively,
"Is there anything too hard for me?"
Now, relate these ideas to Daniel 12:4;
"Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase"
Consider how this prophecy has been fulfilled in our times, and you should be able to see that a new Tower of Babel is rising.
Unlike the first one, which was built with bricks and slime, and which was simply meant to be very high (compare Genesis 11:4 with Deuteronomy 1:28, KJV) this one is being built with science and high technology!
And this one is literally reaching for the stars!
Furthermore, all of this is an expression of man's desire to be his own god and to achieve immortality apart from God.
God is going to have to step into history in a big way soon and stop this or we may achieve real, lasting peace and unity apart from God. We may also soon be genetically engineering ourselves and thus at least giving ourselves significantly extended lifespans, and possibly making ourselves physically immortal. If we do, fallen yet immortal humanity will spread out throughout the entire universe and take sin and Satan's dominion with them. God must intervene in history to stop this. This can't be just a local intervention. The whole world is involved in this (for example, China and India have space programs). The only thing prophesied in the Bible that will do the job is the Second Coming of Christ, or, from the standpoint of the world, the Great Tribulation.
What is Going to Happen?
There have been so many different ideas put forward about what is going to happen that most of them have to be at least partially wrong. Whatever really happens will have to be other than what many Christians expect. How do we arrive at the right conclusions?
Special Note: Although this writer always admits that he could be wrong about anything he says concerning future events, he can honestly testify to having a better "track record" of being right than many others who teach on Prophecy.
See... "Where is the Promise?"
First, notice something from Daniel 12:4 and 8-10. The words of the prophecy were "closed up and sealed till the time of the end". It was God's intention that the prophecies of the Second Coming could not be understood until they were about to be fulfilled. When the time comes, "the wise shall understand". So the older a line of interpretation is, the less likely it is to be correct. In accordance with Amos 3:7, the real truth will be revealed just before the fulfillment.
Second, be careful about what you use as the basis of your thinking. There are multiple reasons why our thinking about Second Coming Prophecy should be based mainly on the Book of Revelation. There is reason to believe that, as far as Second Coming Prophecy is concerned, the Book of Revelation has preeminent authority over all the other Books of the Bible. The number one reason is that it is the Lord Jesus Christ, in His glorified state, who appears in the first chapter as the Giver of the Book. Just by doing so, He is telling us that the Book of Revelation is the final word, literally and figuratively, on Prophecy. Note that the first verse says that God gave Jesus the Revelation "to show His servants - things which must shortly take place". The implication is that the Revelation was given to Jesus after His Ascension. The Book of Revelation, therefore, contains prophetic information that even Jesus, in His earthly, pre-Ascension state, did not know.
Therefore, if we base our thinking on other passages, we are guaranteed to come to erroneous conclusions. If, for example, we base our thinking on Matthew 24 and the parallel passages in Mark 13 and Luke 21 (as is often done), it is guaranteed to be wrong. A number of scholars are of the opinion that these chapters can be understood to have been completely fulfilled in 70 AD. This may in fact be true, except for a few specific verses that clearly refer to the Second Coming. By the consensus of the Early Church Fathers, the Book of Revelation hadn't even been written in 70 AD. The same principle applies to interpretations based on the Book of Daniel. Any real student of Bible History knows that all of the first 11 chapters can be understood to have been fulfilled by 70 AD. Only Daniel 12 is clearly about the Second Coming, because it mentions the Resurrection of the Saints and the Great Tribulation.
The Great Tribulation
Using the Book of Revelation as the basis for our thinking, we come up with some radical conclusions:
- Most interpretations about the Great Tribulation see it as being divided into two 3 1/2 year periods. However, the Book of Revelation shows that the Tribulation will be divided into three distinct periods that are called "woes". (See Revelation 8:13, 9:12 and 11:14.) These periods each represent a different outpouring of God's wrath. They differ in form, intensity and duration. Each includes a catastrophe, or catastrophes, of a kind and/or scale unknown in human history. These disasters will exceed the Flood in their combined overall impact on the human race. These disasters are the principle subjects of Revelation, 8, 9 and 16, with other references elsewhere in the Book.
- More than 2/3 of the human race will be killed. This is derived from Revelation 8 & 9. (See also Zechariah 13:8.) Everyone else will suffer, most terribly. For most of the human race, the suffering will be equivalent in severity (though not in kind) to that of the Jews during the Nazi holocaust.
- The entire Church will go into the Tribulation. The Christians who are ready will be divinely protected. (See Revelation 7:1-8 and compare with Ezekiel 9.) But most Christians will not be ready. (See Revelation 3:15-17.) Those who are not will realize their failure during the Tribulation and will repent. (See Revelation 7: 9 and 13 & 14, and compare with Zechariah 13:9.)
- The Two Witnesses (chapter 11) will preach a stern message of repentance, while striking the earth with horrible plagues. Most of the surviving Jews will turn to Christ under their ministry, and the Christians who weren't ready will repent.
- The Two Beasts of the Revelation (chapter 13) will not become recognizable for who they are until the Tribulation is well underway. The same is true of the Two Witnesses. The Mark of the Beast will also not be recognizable for what it is until given. "Mystery Babylon" though, may be visible now. It appears to be Islam! (Compare Zechariah 5:5-11 [note that Shinar is the land of Babylon] with Revelation 17:1-5.) The Beast will rule a revived Babylonian Empire, dominated by turn Islam. They will turn against Islam and destroy Mecca near the end of the Tribulation.
- The actual Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrection of the Saints, the Rapture, and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, all happen at the end of the Tribulation
- The Battle of Armageddon takes place after the Second Coming. This also includes a cosmic catastrophe. Then the Millennium begins.
We need to know what the disasters are. There is concrete reason to believe that the events in the passages referred to above are not symbolic at all, as has been frequently taught. Furthermore, they can not be understood in terms of Old Testament symbolism. Trying to do so is a common, and well meant, but serious error. To understand these passages, we have to go to an unusual source for Divine Truth: science! This idea is justified in the Scriptures. In Acts 17:28, Paul appeals to pagan Greek poets to support his doctrine. Truth is truth, no matter where it comes from. More than that, the Wise Men who came to see the Baby Jesus were the scientists of their day. They were the only ones who knew by their own knowledge and reasoning that the Messiah had come. Not even the Priests could do that. So it shouldn't surprise or offend us if science can tell us something about the Great Tribulation.
If the events described in Revelation 8:7-9:2 are viewed as different aspects of the same event, rather than a series of events, they form a detailed and accurate description of a kind of disaster that the public has generally known about for less than 20 years. An asteroid or comet collision, the impact occurring in one of the oceans! The description of "something like a great mountain burning with fire" in Revelation 8:8 is the most accurate and vivid description of the event that a person ignorant of the subject could give. The repeated references to "one third" in the passage are telling us that the collision will devastate one third of the earth's surface. This will include killing one third of the human race. The most probable site of impact would be somewhere in the northern Pacific Ocean. The collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in July and August 1994 was a warning from God, letting us know that this kind of thing really happens.
The same pattern of different aspects of the same event being described as a series of events is also found in Revelation 16. Contrary to what some have taught, these are not the same events as those in Revelation 8.
Remember, there are three "woes". The first begins with the asteroid collision and lasts five months. The second "woe" lasts more than 3 1/2 years, covering the entire ministry of the Two Witnesses. The events of chapter 16 are the first part of the third "woe". The source of the catastrophe is again revealed in verse 8. The sun scorches men with heat. Everything else in the chapter, as far as physical events, is the result of this. Isaiah 30:26 speaks of the light of the sun being sevenfold. This is an event called a "helium flash", a low-power "nova" event (not a supernova!). It will produce a literal hell-on-earth situation for a few weeks to a few months. This, materially, will be the worst part of the Tribulation. So you should realize that we have something to be afraid of. It is going to be very important to be ready.
What Do We Have To Do To Be Ready?
We find the first teaching about being ready in the Psalm 91:1;
"He who dwells in the secret place of (read "stays close to") the Most High
will abide (read "survive") in the shadow (read "protection") of the Almighty."
This protection will be given just before the Tribulation begins, i.e. the asteroid or comet collision, in the form of the "seal of the living God" (Revelation 7:1 & 2). The effect of this protection is described in verses 7 & 8 of Psalm 91:
"A thousand may fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand,
But it (the wrath of God) shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And behold the reward of the wicked."
This verse, usually regarded as divinely inspired rhetoric, may be literally fulfilled in the lives of the Christians who have the seal during the Tribulation. So what do we do to be ready?
Jesus gave us two specific lines of teaching about being ready.
The first is His admonition to the Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:18-20). In this passage, He speaks in highly figurative language, but some real digging into the Scriptures shows that what He said is actually identical to what God said in II Chronicles 7:14, if both passages are fully understood. The fact that we have to "buy" the things we need shows us that being ready is going to cost us something.
Here is what He told us to do:
In Revelation 3:18;
- Buying "gold tried in fire" is committing ourselves to regular times of prayer and fasting. The fasting, or doing something equivalent, is not an option, as has been mistakenly taught.
- Buying "white garments" means not only really repenting of our sins, but being overtly righteous, especially in the sense of really being separate from the world. It also means renunciation of anything that needlessly causes division in the Church.
- "Buying "eye salve", to "anoint" - actually, to rub into - our eyes means really immersing our minds in the Word of God, to the exclusion of anything else that we don't have to let into our minds.
Doing all this to the extent that the Lord actually meant will not be easy. We must be truly diligent about all of this. We must become so committed to Christ, so overtly righteous, that we will be called legalists if we preach what we practice.
In Matthew 24 & 25;
The context of the three Parables of Matthew 25 shows that they are all about being ready. This is also shown by the fact that they all end in something equivalent to the Second Coming or Judgment Day. Furthermore, all the people being discussed in these Parables are Christians. These Parables present standards of overt obedience, such that we won't be ready if we don't obey them. In considering these, we must also look at the Parable of the Faithful and Unfaithful Servants in Matthew 24: 44-51. Here is what the Parables tell us:
- We must have the attitude of really expecting the Lord to return at any moment, and consciously and seriously live our lives that way. The main application that Jesus mentions is being servants to our fellow Christians.
- We must be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, and again, be really expecting the Lord's return. And above that, we must understand that we can't wait until the last minute to get ready. We may never get the chance. We must get ready and stay ready.
- We must use our "talents" for the Lord's service. These "talents" are not our natural aptitudes, as many believe. The Parable shows that they are something given only to Christians in the knowledge of, and in addition to, their natural aptitudes. "Talents" are therefore gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in particular, service gifts as in Ephesians 4:11 and Romans 12:6-8. Again, the use of these "talents" will require us, first and foremost, to be servants!
- We must be servants to our fellow Christians, as opposed to serving the unsaved, and be diligent about it. "...My brethren..." are not just anybody in the whole human race. The term, as defined by Jesus Himself (Matthew 12:49-50, Mark 3: 33-35 and Luke 8:19-21) makes it clear that He was referring only to Christians. It is our fellow Christians to whom we must minister. His words, "...the least of these..." tells us that we must not discriminate about which of our fellow Christians we will serve. This is the overwhelming intent of the teaching of much of the New Testament, such as John 13:34 & 35, James 2:1-10, and I John 3:11-18. We must "love one another...in deed and in truth".
Of course, there is much more to be said about all of this. The Main Message pages of this Web Site say more about it, and the accompanying booklets say even more. Please take the time to read them. What you learn will help you to be sure of being ready.
Contact Author, William D. Brehm: firstname.lastname@example.org