The Scriptures tell us very plainly that we cannot predict when the rapture will occur or when the events of the tribulation period will begin. Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons which the father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7). Similarly, the apostle Paul wrote, “Now concerning the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you” (1 Thes. 5:1). But this does not mean that we should not study prophecy or piece the events of the second coming together by comparing Scripture with Scripture. These events have been preached, charted, essayed, dramatized, theorized, and even fictionalized. They may all have their place as long as the truth has first place.
For those of us who believe in the Blessed Hope, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep from reading into world events the events of prophecy. One of these days, a generation will read the actual events and rejoice to see the day. Until then, however, every other generation has the right, even the obligation, to discern the signs of the times as well as the color of the sky. The imminency of the rapture has been the great privilege of every generation.
As we get closer to that grand event, it would seem right to think that we could see how the stage is being set even clearer than in previous times. Though we know not to be presumptuous, we look at these events almost with a yearning that it could be the actual time. We grieve for a lost world and are thankful that God is longsuffering to delay the day of judgment, but we also can’t help being disappointed if the events of our time will not be the real events of His coming.
What we can do is place the Biblical scenario over the current events and see if and where they match. There have probably always been certain world events that would fit into a prophetic scenario but when so many others do not fit then we know that it can’t be THE fulfillment of the Biblical prophecies. The interesting thing about today’s current events and the Biblical scenario is that the stage is filled more than ever with furniture that does fit whether or not the individuals involved turn out to be the specific prophetic characters. Who can deny that today’s political candidates would love to have the charisma of a Hitler or an Antichrist? Who can deny that the new way of conducting a political rally is more like a Nuremberg rally or a rock concert than the Lincoln-Douglas debates? Who can deny that the western world today responds to symbolism over substance, image over reality, and political correctness over moral correctness? Who can deny that the western world is tired of Biblical Christianity and ready for a world encompassing ecumenicalism?
In addition to the mood, consider the world events that could quickly develop into a Biblical scenario: Israel is under more pressure than ever and needs the protection of a western power; those powers to the north of Israel are but a few years from being ready to invade Israel; that northern power (Russian-backed Islam) is becoming an increasing danger to the western world; Europe is ready to merge into a ten part empire for its own protection and economic stability; all branches of Christendom are running back to Rome for unity and a more “meaningful” liturgical church; economic pressure is causing many to desire government controlled programs; and perhaps most striking of all, a charismatic political candidate with no qualifications other than being able to emotionally charge a crowd is blindly but eagerly followed both in the United States and in Europe.
The general scenario
Closely following the rapture of the church, a western leader will sign a peace treaty with Israel to protect her from her neighbors. This western leader will rally European nations and eventually form a ten nation federation of which he will become supreme ruler and the eleventh nation. A religious body, evidently based in the west, will rise in importance along with this western leader until the ten nations discard her. This much takes place within three and a half years. At that time the northern nations invade the land of Israel, defiantly challenging the Israeli-European treaty but are defeated by the western confederation and an unexplained miracle from God. Having defeated the only world power capable of threatening him, the western leader breaks his treaty with Israel by desecrating the Jewish worship in Jerusalem. He then begins a reign of terror, partnered with an equally charismatic and naturalistic religious leader, that lasts until Christ returns.
The rapture is the next Biblical event to happen. There are no signs that will indicate its nearness nor is it possible to calculate when it will happen. It has been almost two thousand years since the first coming of Christ and every generation of Christians has correctly been looking for it to happen in its life time. When it finally does come, the prophetic clock will begin to tick again and the tribulation period will begin. Seven years of tribulation will occur on the earth until Christ comes to the earth to put an end to Armageddon and bring in the kingdom of God.
Because the rapture of the church is imminent, it does not have precursors. It would seem reasonable that it would occur when world events are set for the tribulation, but God is able to bring about such events whenever He chooses. It is the church’s stewardship to be ready for it to happen at any time. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).
A revived Roman empire
Both from the book of Daniel and Revelation, we understand that the western leader we know as the antichrist will form a ten-nation federation roughly encompassing the original Roman Empire. We have seen recently that even an inexperienced candidate for president of the United States can rally European nations and propose unification with them if he is presented as a charismatic leader looking for change. If such a leader is willing to make even the U.S. an equal (though perhaps a superior among equals) partner in economics and social reform, he could lead them into such a union very quickly.
If, in addition, the harlot of Revelation is the Roman Church, we also see how she could come to power with the antichrist. Catholicism is gaining popularity in place of evangelical Christianity today both in the United States as well as in Europe. The recent threat of Anglican priests returning to Rome due to substantial changes in Anglican doctrine illustrates this possibility. The antipathy toward any other denominational name and the love of liturgy over personal faith can rally millions of westerners behind the Roman Church as well as the political leader of the west.
We know a lot about this man from major portions of Scripture (Dan. 11, Matt. 24, 2 Thes. 2, Rev. 13). We know that he will be a great orator with the ability to rally people and nations (Dan. 7:13). Barak Obama’s unique ability to excite masses of people with no other personal qualification shows how ready the western world is for this person (it is shocking to see what amounts to a coronation for a king, not a president). The fact that he will not “regard the God of his fathers” (Dan. 11:37) has been taken to mean he may be Jewish, or that he may simply not be a true convert to the religion of his father(s). The controversy over Obama’s lineage is interesting because his father is Muslim but he may not “regard” that as his own religion. That is unsettling enough for most Americans this election season, but it again shows how westerners are willing to accept that scenario regardless of its dangers or implications.
The antichrist will “honor the God of forces” (Dan. 11:38); he will go “forth conquering and to conquer” (Rev. 6:2). Hitler also came to power by moving to solve a terrible economic situation but turning quickly to military force. Today’s influx of Muslims in the west has brought economic challenges but also a growing security problem. We will find out more and more that Islam is an inseparable union of religion and politics. It is a pagan theocracy that must advance an all-or-nothing political agenda. This creates the opportunity for a new western leader to gain strength by combating the growing Islamic threat and also strengthening the European (Economic) Union. He would become the most powerful man in the western world and have only the Muslim Middle East as a rival.
The king of the north
The battle of Gog and Magog takes place at the middle of the tribulation period. The western king (Antichrist) has established himself over Europe and is protecting Israel because of his initial treaty with her (Dan 9:27). The king of the north is made up of those nations to the north of Israel which make up an eminent threat to Israel’s security. Ezekiel names them “the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (Ez. 38:2). In our day we have understood these to include Russia. Ezekiel also names five other nations as allies: “Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya . . . Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters” (Ez. 38:5-6). These five are generally thought to be present day Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Turkey. If these designations are anywhere near parallel to the ancient boundaries, we have no trouble understanding the threat they pose in our day to Israel.
These northern nations will blatantly invade Israel, defying the treaty Israel has with the (now known) antichrist. The antichrist will come to Israel’s rescue, defeating the northern power and establishing his own power over the entire globe (Ez. 38:18-23; Dan. 11:40-45). This scenario is so plausible today that it takes little or no imagination to picture it happening. Iraq is developing nuclear weapons and Israel is practicing retaliation. The United States is the only western power willing and capable of intervening. A charismatic leader who will have developed Europe into a supportive role could handle this situation with relative military ease.
The false prophet
If the Roman Church rides upon the beast in the first half of the tribulation (Rev. 17:3) and then is discarded by his western federation (Rev. 17:16), an even more terrible religious system will develop in the second half of the tribulation. The second beast is the false prophet who comes up out of the earth and brings a world-wide new age type of religion (Rev. 13:11-18). This religious man is ruthless, magical, technologically astute, and deadly. He will cause all the world (now that all rivals have been eliminated) to worship both Satan and the antichrist by receiving the mark of the beast. This mark will allow a person to buy and sell and also to be accepted by the politically correct establishment.
Again, it takes little or no imagination to realize how a mark can be placed on the body that would revolutionize not only buying and selling, but also security clearances and world-wide tracking of virtually anything and anyone. Micro chips are already in use all over the world and body markings are now so common it is hard to find anyone without one.
The false prophet will utilize a world-wide idolatry that is ready-made for such a time. Again, Obama’s campaign has shown how the rock concert is now THE accepted method of presenting anything to the techno generation. Hands raised, shoulder to shoulder, screaming nonsense, worshiping the self-idealized moment of freedom and release, began in the 1930s at Nuremberg and was reaffirmed again in Germany at the Victory Column last week. That column is a historic symbol of two things: European military victory and personal moral freedom. The Germans call the Victory Column “Siegessaeule” or “column of victory.” The Nazi greeting was “sieg heil” or “hail victory.”
And So . . .
I doubt if the current political and religious figures will be the antichrist and false prophet. I don’t think they’re smart and evil enough. But I don’t doubt that the world is ready for the ones who are! The rapture will remove the Church and the Holy Spirit. The world will finally get what it wants—a world without God.