My understanding of the last times doesn’t really fit a clean system. Of the common views that are out there I suppose my understanding relates best to Amillenialism. I don’t like the term very much. As with all Scripture the prophetical texts are to be interpreted with their historical context and authorial intent in mind. Daniel, Jesus, and John are interpreted in their immediate context, but a futurist view is understood and incorporated in my understanding. A thematic approach is taken to all three, but especially to the Revelation.
Brief overview of the Last Days
· The Final Events leading up to the Last Days (Birth Pains)
a. Disobedient Israel’s Persecution of the Church (Prostitute)
b. The Destruction of Israel by the government whom God sends (Beast)
c. Anti-Christ sits in the temple and is later destroyed (Man of lawlessness)
· The End of the Age
1. The Appearing of Jesus
a. Resurrection of the dead
b. Gathering of men by angels
1. Righteous taken to meet Christ in the air
c. The Earth reformed
1. Mountains leveled
2. Lake of Fire revealed
d. Divine Decision Administered (Final Judgment)
The final times, which have been a long time coming, is the time period of the end of the age. This is the time when all rebellion and unregulated human and angelic authority will be done away with. God will exercise full control in the universe and enact all His desires as they relate to how things are to be done. He will then keep it this way moving forward. This time period is climaxed by one major event; God’s own appearing in Heaven (sky) along with the Son of Man. The exact time for this event is unknown and cannot be known. There are however other events that lead to this point which let us know that the day is close. This is an outline of the last times.
Birth Pains; A Precedent for the End
Since the ascension of Jesus it has always been believed that His return to the Earth would be soon. This is why the early church labeled their time period moving forward as the “last days”. The major events which will immediately precede Jesus’ coming have not yet occurred at least as they correspond to Jesus’ actual coming. The preceding events of “the end” are referred to by Jesus as the “beginning of birth pains”. This beginning of birth pains which precedes the end serves as a rubric for the end. This preceding time happened at the time of Daniel’s prophecy with Greece and with Jesus’ prophecy of Rome’s desolation of Israel in 70 A.D. In short the birth pains happened at one time, another time, and will happened at a time that is still to come. The church has been mocked and persecuted because of their faithfulness to Jesus by both the rejecting Israelis and Gentiles (other people groups). God has revealed to His prophets that His coming will not come until a major persecution of the Church has taken place by the Isralis and the Gentiles. This persecution will come at a time when the unfaithful Israelis are somewhat safe with the Gentile nations and in union with their hatred for Jesus and the Church. Then after the persecution by the Israelis they themselves will be persecuted and be destroyed by the strongest ruling kingdom of that time. God allowed them and even sent them to destroy them. His means of doing so is by loosing Satan whom will incite the man called anti Christ to world power and persecution of the church. This will also fulfil the Gog, Magog prophecy. Then God and Jesus will come to the Earth.
The (Actual) End
Now after those things happen and God appears then the end has come. The angels will be sent by Jesus to gather everyone to the appointed place. The dead will rise bodily and also be taken. The righteous will be taken up to meet Christ in the sky. They will then descend with Him. The wicked will be gathered and be taken to the Valley of Decision, which if understood literally is the valley of Jehoshaphat, known today as the Kedron Valley. Mountains will be leveled at his appearing and a lake of fire will appear in the valley of Hinnom, also as known by its transliterated Greek form as Gehenna. This again will be the location of the fire if one takes a literal approach. Then Jesus will enter into decision with all mankind to determine what they will get for what they have done in their life. Those whose deeds were good and who were repentant will be given the blessing of living with God and Jesus on the New Earth. Those who were rebellious and did not repent will be thrown into the Lake of Fire to be tormented. The righteous will live with God on the New Earth forever. Here God’s will is always exercised and everything is right. Satan and the rebellious angels will also be thrown into that lake of Fire.
The basis for understanding this unfolding of events comes mainly from Daniel, Jesus’ words concerning the end, and John’s Revelation. Paul’s short compilation of the end in Thessalonians chapter 2 also greatly helps to understand this and 1 Enoch is also consulted.
The book of 1 Enoch and its content as found in the ‘The Watchers”, which is quoted by Jude, is probably when the concepts of the final judgment and resurrection are first introduced. From that point we have bits in pieces from Isaiah and the prophets, but a bigger picture in Daniel. Daniel lays out the foundation that there are a number of giant governments, or kingdoms, that have ruled and will rule until the time of the resurrection, which he briefly mentions. As already understood the righteous are blessed with eternal life and the wicked with destruction. His rubric for the end times will later be used by Jesus and built upon in the Revelation. The other prophets mention key details in their writings concerning the end. Isaiah points out the New Heavens and New Earth along with the Eternal fire for the wicked. Joel points out through prophecy that the valley of Jehoshaphat is where God will gather all nations and judge the wicked. The final government and leader spoken of by Daniel is then spoken about again in John’s Revelation and is regarded as the Beast. Daniel says that the Son of Man will come and put down all human governments by establishing the Kingdom of God. Jesus mentions Daniel’s abomination, which is the leader, as a future person who stands at that certain location. That location is believed by Paul to be the Temple in Jerusalem. Paul taking all of these into account, probably except John’s Revelation as the date of writing probably comes after his death, sums up the coming of the Lord in 2 Thessalonians 2. The rebellion and the man of sin must come before Christ and as he states in 1 Thessalonians when Christ does come He will resurrect the dead, change the living, and gather those faithful ones to Himself in the air.
Concerning Daniel’s Prophecy:
Kingdoms: Daniel sees a vision from God that depicts a statute made up of various resources such as gold, silver, and others. And in interpreting this statue he concludes that there have been a certain number of large Kingdoms that have ruled in the past and that will rule the earth in the future until the Kingdom of God comes. When the Kingdom of God comes all governments will be destroyed forever and the Son of Man will rule the Earth. Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece are no doubt the kingdoms in his mind. Daniel 11, the Books of Maccabees, and the historical conquests of Greece go so well together that the fourth beast should no doubt be regarded as Greece. Greece came and there was no “end”. This is why Daniel’s prophecy serves as a rubric that is then used for the destruction of Israel, then the final destruction of all things in the end.
The Son of Man: The Kingdom of God is given to a man, who is labeled a son of man. This man was given the authority directly from God and all peoples on Earth will allege to Him as King over all. Jesus has come claiming, but also as fulfilling this title.
Concerning John’s Revelation:
The Beast: He is the final ruler of the final kingdom which shall come in the end. The man called anti-Christ. The Beast is also regarded by John as the whole great anti-God governments and kings of the past and future. He and his kingdom may be one of the past kings and past kingdoms due to him being regarded by John as “one of the 7”. This beast while being a world government is also one of the 7 heads, that is one of the kings. Each kingdom has a king and the seven heads of John’s beast corresponds to Daniel’s statue representing nations. Babylon, Media, Persia, Greece, Rome, 6th kingdom, 7th kingdom.
The Adulterer in the Revelation of John is one whom persecutes the church and is considered the root of all unfaithfulness. She is considered by this author to be rebellious and unfaithful Israel. The biological, but unfaithful sons of Abraham are aligned with and shown as the starters of the Gentile idolatry as presented by John in his revelation.
The New Jerusalem is that which is called the city. This city is the church and those who were faithful to God from all generations. We understand that New Jerusalem will dwell on the highest mountain where God will sit along with Christ. The faithful will be led to eat of the Tree of Life.
Concerning Jesus’ prophecy:
The Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the time of punishment for the God’s nation, Israel, and of the end of the age. The rejection of Jesus as Messiah by the leaders and majority of Jews brought about their destruction by God at the hand of the Romans in 70 A.D. Jesus teaches that after the persecution of the Apostles and the atrocities committed in Judea then the end will come. As with Daniel’s prophecy we have the same categorical, preceding events leading to the end without the fulfillment of the end. Jesus’ prophecy and usage of Daniel’s details delineates a rubric to the end.
2 Thessalonians 2:
In the second chapter of Second Thessalonians Paul encourages the church to remember that the day of Jesus’ coming will not be a private matter. The rebellion and man of lawlessness will be fully manifest before the time of the Lord’s coming.
New Heaven and Earth:
Contrary to today’s common understanding of the Christian’s destiny stands the truth of the New Heavens and the New Earth. Christians will certainly not go to Heaven and remain there forever. The authors of Scripture assert that God resurrects man from the dead and they will then abide on the New Earth which He will create. This new Earth should probably be understood not as an entire newly created Earth, but rather a reformed version of our current planet. Peter says that the New Earth is what Christians of the first century were “looking for”. These New Heavens and Earth were prophesied in 1 Enoch and Isaiah. No doubt these texts influenced what they expected to come in the end. The Kingdom of God will be fulfilled and the faithful will rule with Jesus in the new Paradise.
The Resurrection from the Dead:
The resurrection of the dead will be literal and bodily. Those from all ages will be called out from the dead by Jesus and He will sit to judge those have died and who are alive at His coming.
The Rubric for the Last Days:
The rubric for the end times is the list of categories and events that reoccur in Daniel and Jesus’ prophecy, and the Revelation. In these three prophecies three similar things occur.
Basic and Detailed General Rubrics of the End
God’s people turn unfaithful –> God’s faithful are persecuted –>
The unfaithful are destroyed by God through the means of a powerful nation –> The said powerful nation is destroyed and replaced with God’s Kingdom with the faithful of all the age ruling with God
God’s people turn unfaithful –> Anointed is cut off –>
The unfaithful commit a major/climaxing rebellion that stirs God’s wrath –> God’s faithful are persecuted –> The unfaithful are destroyed by God through the means of a powerful nation –> The said powerful nation is destroyed and replaced with God’s Kingdom with the faithful of all the age ruling with God
Hellenization of the Jews –> Onias the High Priest destroyed –>
Zeus in the temple and sacrifice –> The slaughter of the faithful by the Greeks and rebellious –> Continued conquering ruling authority over Jerusalem –> Antiochus Epiphanies 4th struck and small relief given to the Jews
Messiah comes and is rejected by the leaders and majority –>
Jesus crucified –> Unknown first century desecration –> The church and Apostles are martyred –> Rome’s destruction of Israel and Jerusalem –> Rome is later cast off
The final rebellion will play out a lot like those of the past have. We don’t know exactly how this will all play out. Perhaps we have some more details in the Revelation, but not a whole a lot to be conclusive of just how exactly this general rubric will be penciled in. Jesus will return and the Resurrection of the dead will occur by His command. The faithful will inherit the Earth and the unfaithful will inherit eternal condemnation.