Before I even began thinking about writing The Spirit of Prophecy, I had a keen interest in biblical prophecy for many years. One of the things I noticed was that, with all of the various schemes, there were always things that didn’t fit. One common view says that Jesus will rapture the Church without any warning. Other views say that the rapture will occur at the end of the Tribulation, with lots of warning. The different views can all point to scripture passages that seem to support their contentions.
A true view on any subject in Scripture, however, must harmonize the whole bible, and not pit one part against another. To be fair, none of us knows everything, and there are always questions.
Studying Jesus’ words of Matthew 24:6, I noticed that one phrase, in particular, seems to be frequently ignored “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet”
What we need to be ask about this phrase is “Why would Jesus’ disciples be troubled by wars and rumours of wars?” The world has gone through two thousand years of almost constant warfare, from that time until this. While Christians don’t like war, it doesn’t trouble us in a spiritual sense.
Jesus’ inclusion of this command should indicate to us that there is something different about the wars that He is referring to. Christians could be troubled by the wars in question, not because they are wars per sé, but because these wars resemble the Tribulation period.
If Christians are “not objects of wrath”, then they should not go through the Tribulation period, which is God’s wrath against mankind. True Christians won’t of course, but Satan is free to make other wars look like the Tribulation, if he can. This is key to understanding this passage, and much of End Times prophecy! While Satan is on a leash, he is not an automaton, and he is very intelligent. Never underestimate your enemy! God has a purpose in allowing Satan’s deceptions to continue.
Luke 21:28 is a related passage: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh”
Some will say that the context of this statement is the return of Christ at the end of the Tribulation period, and at first glance it appears to be the case, however Scripture often skips backward and forward within prophetic passages. The clue that this is a skip backward is the phrase “when these things begin”. He is going from talking about the end to talking about the beginning.
Tribulation believers will not only see the beginning of the End Times, they will also see the ending of them, those who are not killed by the Antichrist, that is. Believers who “lift up their heads” during the Tribulation period will have them cut off! Therefore we know that the people in the passage are Church age saints who see the wars and rumours of wars Jesus spoke of in Matt. 24.
Yes indeed, there are signs before the rapture! When Jesus says “Watch” he is referring to these signs.
The redemption spoken of in Luke 21:28 is the rapture of the Church, and not His return in glory, which He had just spoken of in the previous verse. The “end” is His return in glory, but the End Times will begin during the Church-age, even before the rapture of the Church.
Even in Joel we see that there are three passages that talk about the sun being dimmed and the moon looking like blood, before the Tribulation.
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.” Joel 2:31
If we define the entire Tribulation period as the Day of the Lord, then this phenomenon must occur before the Tribulation actually begins, i.e. during the later part of the Church-age. The question then becomes, does God define the entire Tribulation as the Day of the Lord? I believe He does, and also that it extends all the way to the end of the millennial reign of Christ, and the destruction of this present earth.
Even if He only defines the last 3 1/2 years as the Tribulation, this phenomenon could still occur during the Church-age. The word “before” is rather open-ended. It will occur sometime before the Day of the Lord, perhaps even several years before. I am convinced that Joel 2:31 is referring to the same events that Jesus is referring to in Matt. 4:6 and Luke 21:28, at least two prophetically significant wars that occur during the winding-down of the Church-age.
As I studied the wars of Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38-39, I realized that there is a real possibility that nuclear weapons could be used in at least one of these conflicts. While scripture does not say exactly when the Isaiah 17:1 destruction of Damascus, will occur, it is obviously an End Times event. The evidence is that the Psalm 83 conflict will be the war that ends Damascus, and I also think this same war will likely see other Arab cities destroyed in like manner. Isaiah 19:18 speaks of an Egyptian city being known as “the city of destruction”. Could this be Cairo, and could it occur during the same war? I think so.
Zechariah 11:1 speaks of the cedars of Lebanon being destroyed by fire. No doubt this is a euphemism that also includes Hezbollah, and other terrorists of Lebanon. The previous chapter, verse 10, speaks of the returning Israelites having to go to Lebanon because there is not enough room for them in Israel or Gilead. Well, they can’t go there today, but once 11:1 is fulfilled there will be nothing to stop them. Is Zechariah 11:1 a reference to the same Psalm 83 war? I think so.
I also think that after the Psalm 83 war, Israel may well give up her nuclear weapons, because of world pressure. The world will say that “Since Israel now has peace with the Arabs, there is no reason for them to keep nuclear arms”. I think Israel will agree, because they will indeed have peace with the Arabs, a peace that will actually work for several years.
It may actually be a pseudo-Antichrist, from Europe, who convinces Israel to give up their nuclear weapons, by promising them protection should they need it. He’ll likely be the same guy who helps broker a peace deal at the end of the Psalm 83 war. Now, wouldn’t it make sense, that the Russian-Iranian coalition might make a preemptive nuclear strike on the European headquarters, if they thought a European army might stand in their way when they attack Israel?
Hmm, If Rome was destroyed in a nuclear blast, that also destroyed a charismatic European leader and the pope at the same time, wouldn’t most Christians interpret this as fulfilment of Revelation 17-18?
Here’s another thought; The bible says nothing about the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If Rome is not Babylon the Harlot of Revelation 17, then God is not obligated to tell us anything of her demise. If she is destroyed in a peripheral event surrounding the Gog-Magog war, it is of minor prophetic consequence, but the interpretation of her demise could have dramatic consequences!
Where will the Catholic Church move its headquarters? Babylon, perhaps? Will this destruction lead the religions of the world to unite to prevent such destruction from occurring ever again? With Rome destroyed will protestants feel safe in uniting with the remnants of the Catholic Church? Many protestants only believe that Rome needs to be “reformed”, after all!
I expect this scenario will play itself out during and after the Gog-Magog war, at the end of the peace following the Psalm 83 war.
Where are the Arabs in the Gog-Magog account? I think we actually do see the Arabs in Ezekiel 38-39, but not as combatants. Sheba, Dedan, and Tarshish appear to be Arab entities. Notice that they say to the invading armies “Are you COME to take a spoil?” In other words the invading armies have to come through the territory of these nations and they don’t have the means to stop them, so they just register a diplomatic protest and allow them through. Probably as a result of their peace with Israel, their armies will be very small, and no match for Iran, Russia, and Turkey.
If the destruction of Damascus occurs before the Gog-Magog war we will see the Syrians relocating their capital. I think they will choose Tartus as their new capital, which is their most important port on the Mediterranean. This would explain the reference to Tarshish. It is not the Tarsus of Turkey, for that would give us the unlikely situation of having Turkey participating in a war, which one of her own major cities protests against.
It is this same Arab/Israeli peace that is referred to in Ezekiel 38:8 & 11, and it is this lack of nuclear arms that will cause God to directly intervene on Israel’s behalf during this war. They will be finally learning to lean on God and not on their own weapons, but salvation for Israel as a whole, will have to wait for the Tribulation period itself.
A detailed study will show that the final re-gathering of Israel in Ezekiel 39:25 is also spoken of in Isaiah 27:12-13. Note that the Isaiah passage speaks of a trumpet associated with this final gathering of Israel. The evidence is that this is the same trumpet Paul spoke of in 1 Corinthians 15:52 relating to the rapture of the Church. Since the book of Revelation had not been written at the time Paul wrote, he could not have been referring to anything in that book.
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall beat off from the channel of the river unto the stream of Egypt, and ye shall be gathered one by one, O ye children of Israel. 13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish in the land of Assyria, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the LORD in the holy mount at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:12)
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:52)
This is the last trumpet for the dispersion of Israel, and the same trumpet that calls the Church home. God will now deal with the nations through Israel and not the Church, anymore.
This would mean that the rapture will occur after the Gog-Magog war, but before the real Tribulation begins! Both the Psalm 83, and Ezekiel 38-39, wars are actually Church-age wars!
For more information see The Spirit of Prophecy by Daniel Knezacek.