It feels as if the world is spinning out of control, doesn’t it? Every day, we are bombarded with disturbing headlines. Violent crime is on the rise, and conflicts are flaring up across the globe, with terrorists and dictators using unprecedented technologies.
Economies are increasingly unstable, virus strains are causing panic, and natural disasters are wreaking havoc all over the earth. Complicating all these matters is the growing divisiveness in our nation and the growing distrust of our broken government and biased media.
If you’re concerned about events unfolding around the world, you’re not alone. According to one news source, “US officials say this confluence of crises poses epic concern and historic danger.” Even seasoned former defense secretary Bob Gates recently admitted, “America is facing the most crises since World War II ended.” And one respected military official said, “We are six steps away from World War III.” No wonder a recent poll by Newsweek revealed that nearly 40% of Americans believe we are living in the end times. It certainly seems like things couldn’t get much worse!
Many Christians are wondering if we are seeing biblical prophecy being fulfilled in our lifetimes.
Jesus gave His disciples a glimpse of what the world will be like during the end times. Scripture says, “Then He said to them, ‘Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be great earthquakes, and in various places plagues and famines, and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven’” (Luke 21:10-11).
When we read these descriptions in Scripture and compare them with current events, it’s natural for Christians to wonder, “Are we living in the end times?” Thankfully, Scripture answers this question and gives Christians great hope for the future.
In this new series, I will share biblical answers to these pressing questions about the end times:
- What does the Bible mean by the end times?
- What role will Israel play in the end times?
- What news events signal the end times?
- What are the major events of the end times?
- What’s the difference between the rapture and the second coming in the end times?
- Why has God delayed the end times?
- How do I prepare for the end times?
Now, I realize that many Christians get confused when we start talking about the end times. The fact is, you can be very smart and still get tangled up in some of the details of Bible prophecy.
Before we consider what the Bible says about specific events God has planned for the end times, and if we are witnessing those events now, let’s first consider the question: Why should Christians even study the end times?
1. Why Study the End Times?
Many people think Bible prophecy is not relevant today. They prefer to talk about topics like how to improve your marriage or how to have a better prayer life. They say those are the things Christians should be studying and discussing, not the end times.
Let me share three reasons why it is important for Christians to understand Bible prophecy.
- The End Times Is a Major Theme of the Bible
- Understanding the End Times Helps Us Interpret and Apply the Bible
- The End Times Should Motivate Us Toward Godly Living
2. The Major Mistake of the Study of the End Times
When Jesus walked the earth, even He didn’t know the exact day and time that He would return. How foolish we would be to think we know more than Jesus!
Unfortunately, that warning from our Lord has not stopped believers over the centuries from trying to predict the date for the return of Jesus Christ.
- In AD 160, Montanus said the new Jerusalem was about to descend from heaven to a field in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Many Christians believed him and waited on the plain on the day Montanus stated. They were very disappointed.
- A few hundred years later, Pope Innocent III believed that if you added 666 (“the number of the beast” in Revelation 13:18) to the date he believed Islam was founded, you would get the date Jesus would return. The pope came up with the year 1284.
- Christopher Columbus wrote The Book of Prophecies, which listed events he thought must take place before Christ’s return. He calculated that the world would end in 1656 or 1658.
- In 1831, William Miller, the founder of the Adventist movement, predicted Jesus would return on March 21, 1844. When that day came and went, Miller said the date of Christ’s return was actually October 22, 1844. When that date yielded no Jesus either, it was dubbed by newspapers as “The Great Disappointment.”
- Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, predicted that Jesus would return in 1914. Russell went on to predict seven other dates the world would end, which all came and went.
- Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping made as many as 13 failed predictions of when Christ would return, the last one being October 21, 2011. His ministry spent more than $100 million publicizing his erroneous proclamations! Many people gave Camping their entire life savings, and several injuries and at least one death resulted from the panic his predictions caused.
These are only a handful of the countless end-times predictions made over the centuries.
However, many non-Christians, using scientific-sounding terminology, have made terrifying doomsday predictions as well.
- In 1967, a best-selling book predicted mass starvation would take place in the developing world by 1975.
- When 1975 rolled around without mass starvation, many scientists moved on to the next catastrophe and predicted that global cooling would send us into a new ice age by the year 2000.
Although we cannot know the exact date or time of His return, Jesus commanded us to observe the signs of the end times and to act accordingly.
3. Understanding the Difference Between the “Last Days ” and “The End Times”
I do believe we are living in a period of time the Bible calls the “last days.” Although no one knows exactly where we are on God’s prophetic clock, we do know that the countdown to Christ’s return has begun.
- The Last Days (Hebrews 1:2)
In one sense, the countdown to the end times began when Jesus ascended into heaven. That is when the clock started ticking down toward the date of Jesus’s second coming. So, in that sense, we are living in the “last days” as we await Christ’s return.
Thus, the term last days in the Bible roughly equates to the church age, which began on the day of Pentecost.
In Romans 11:2–5, Paul explained that during this time, the Jews have hardened their hearts toward the gospel, and God has opened salvation to Gentiles (non-Jews). The church age will end with the rapture when Jesus takes the church to be with Him in heaven.
- The End Times
When I use the term end times, I am referring to the specific events that will begin with the rapture of the church. Immediately after the rapture has occurred, the final seven years of Earth’s history—a period the Bible calls the tribulation—will begin.
This is the time period when a world dictator called the Antichrist will rule the earth. Halfway through those seven years, this ruler betrayed Israel and instigated a period of unparalleled persecution for the final three and a half years, called the “Great Tribulation” (Matthew 24:21). The climax of the Great Tribulation will be a world confrontation called Armageddon, which will end with Jesus Christ visibly appearing in the sky, defeating His enemies, and establishing His thousand-year kingdom in Jerusalem.
When I talk about the end times, I am specifically talking about the seven years of tribulation that will begin with the rapture of the church and will conclude with Christ’s visible second coming seven years later.
- The Last of the “Last Days”
So, as I define it here, we are not yet living in the end times because the rapture has not yet happened. However, I am convinced that we are living in what the Bible calls the “last days.”
And as I look at some of the current news events around the world, I believe that we are in the last of the last days. Jesus Christ could suddenly appear at any moment to rapture His church and usher in the end-times tribulation.
However, before we attempt to set a date for the rapture of the church and the end-times tribulation described in biblical prophecy, we must keep two principles in mind.
- Some signs of the end times are present in every generation.
- The signs of the end times will accelerate in intensity and frequency as we approach the end.
Technically, we are not in the “end times” yet because the Rapture has not occurred.
But we are in the last days that will precede the end times, and I believe that the signs indicate we are in the “last of the last days” immediately before the Rapture. Why do I say that?
If there is a fixed date on God’s calendar for the return of Jesus Christ which will result in our ultimate deliverance—or as Paul calls it—our “salvation,” then that is closer today than it was when we were first saved or even closer than it was this time yesterday. Right?
Now, remember, Paul wrote these words 2000 years ago. If Paul were standing here today, what do you think he would say? “Wake up and wipe the sleep away from your eyes. If the Lord’s return was close 2000 years ago when I wrote these words, how much closer is it today?”
Are you ready?
Full Passage: Matthew 24:3-8