Opinions on faith and life

Remaining Bible Prophecies Condensed

2014-07-01

Introduction

This is a condensed list and commentary concerning Bible prophecies yet to be fulfilled in their entirety. It begins with a brief outline of each book in order as they are listed in most English Bibles, followed by a more detailed analysis by section: foundation, Old Testament (OT), New Testament (NT), and finally a proposed sequence of all the prophecies together.

Bible prophecy may, at least in part, be deliberately ambiguous. In 1 Cor. 2:8, Paul explained that God hid his plans about Jesus from “the rulers of this age”, who, if they had understood the prophecies, “would not have crucified the Lord of Glory”. And in 1 Peter 1:12, Peter says that “even angels strain to look into this”. Who before the cross could have figured out that the Messiah would first come to be a literal sacrifice, or that He would come not once but at least twice? (Nowhere does scripture indicate that there are only two comings.) So we must not treat our personal understanding of prophecy as infallible or obvious, nor judge those who hold other views to be defective or lost.

There are difficulties with every prophetic interpretation, which is surely related to the ambiguity already discussed. But we must try, and in trying we must not overlook details. There are many similarities in prophecies, but equally significant are the differences. For example, cities all have boundaries, buildings, and people, but this hardly means that all such descriptions refer to one particular city. And we must determine to the best of our ability which differences are simply a matter of further information (e.g. the four Gospel accounts) or are conflicting, in which case the details indicate that more than one city is being described.

We should also consider basic principles that serve as limits on the scope of a particular prophecy. For example, if one believes that there will be mortals (aging, death, and decay) on earth forever, then the presence of mortals on earth cannot be used to argue that a particular prophecy must occur before the end of the Millennium. Conversely of course, a prophecy indicating the presence of mortals on earth must refer to no later than the end of the Millennium if death itself is done away with by then. Such fundamentally divergent interpretive approaches make discussion of future prophecy an exercise in futility, though of course there is always value in making each other think.

But perhaps a more important issue to resolve before discussing this or any other Biblical topic is whether a given passage is literal or figurative/spiritual. And these two things are not always mutually exclusive; something could be both literal and symbolic. If, for example, a passage gives meticulous detail about the dimensions of a temple, the reader must first decide whether this itself is an indication of literalness, or whether such details only serve the purpose of conveying the idea that the temple is enormous or ornate. As before, a discussion between individuals holding to conflicting fundamental interpretive methods will prove ultimately futile in terms of coming to any agreement or resolution.

This document approaches the Bible according to the Literal/Historical/Grammatical method,1 which holds that context and genre weigh heavilly on the interpretation of a passage. That is, it is not to be spiritualized or treated solely as allegory or symbolism if there are no grammatical or logical reasons why it could not be literal. And it is the conviction of the author that since death only began as a result of sin (Rom. 5:12), then there was no death before sin and will be no death after it (Rev. 22:3). Thus any prophecy that speaks of mortality must describe a time when sin/the curse still applies (Isaiah 65:20) and before the end of the Millennium, since there is no further “judgment seat” after that of the White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15), which precedes the new heaven and earth and New Jerusalem (Rev. 21). And finally, this document also holds that Israel and the church are distinct entities with distinct destinies, as explained in detail under The Foundation.

Outline of All Prophecies

Psalm 83

Enemies of Israel band together to wipe it off the map: Edom, the Ishmaelites, Moab, the Agrites, Byblos, Ammon, Amalek, Philistia, Tyre, and Assyria. These correspond roughly to modern-day Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, northern Iraq, and possibly parts of Egypt.

Isaiah 17

A prophecy against Damascus:

  1. Damascus will no longer be a city (suddenly, overnight) but will lie in ruins, replaced by grazing flocks.
  2. It will happen when the glory of Israel has faded almost to the point of death.
  3. That day will also be when people turn back to God.

Jeremiah 30:7

  1. The Day of the Lord will be a time of great trouble for Jacob, though he will survive it.
  2. God will save them out of exile where they were scattered among the nations.
  3. Whoever attacks Israel will be attacked.
  4. The people of Israel will be numerous and prosperous.

Ezekiel 36-37

  1. Though they had been unfaithful and suffered punishment, Israel is promised revenge against all enemies, and restoration of their land and people, not because they earned it but so God would be glorified.
  2. God will gather them from all the nations and bring them back to their own land.
  3. God will change their hearts so that they will keep his laws.
  4. In the vision of the valley of dry bones, God shows that this restoration will be in stages: the bones assemble and are covered with skin, but they were not yet alive, then God breathes life into them.
  5. All the tribes of Israel will join together, no longer divided in two, with David reigning over them.
  6. God will permanently put his Temple there.

Ezekiel 38-39

The prophecy about Gog, of the land of Magog in the far north, ruler of Meshek and Tubal. The nations listed correspond roughly to modern Russia, Iran, northern Africa, eastern Europe, and Turkey.

  1. God will put hooks in his jaw and turn him and his whole army around, including those of Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Beth Togarmah from the far north.
  2. They will invade a rich land that has recovered from war, whose people came from many nations to Israel and were now living securely, peacefully, and unsuspecting.
  3. Mere protest will be offered by Sheba, Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish. Sheba and Dedan are roughly equivalent to modern Saudi Arabia, while Tarshish may refer to areas as far as Britain and the rest of western Europe.
  4. When Gog attacks Israel there will be a great earthquake there, causing the whole world to shake with fear in the presence of God.
  5. God will cause the invading army to turn on itself, and there will be plague, torrential rain, hail, and burning sulphur, destroying the army on the mountains of Israel and in the open field, where the carrion birds and wild animals will consume their bodies.
  6. God will send down fire on the land of Magog and those who live safely on the coastlands.
  7. This causes all Israel to know that God is the Lord, and the world to know that Israel had been punished for its sins.
  8. People from the towns of Israel will collect the weapons and burn them for fuel for 7 years.
  9. People of Israel will spend 7 months burying the bodies in the valley east of the sea, then conduct a more thorough search for any bodies or bones missed before.
  10. God will restore Israel and remove their shame, settling them forever in the land.

Ezekiel 40-48

The vision giving details of the restored land and people of Israel, commonly attributed to the Millennium:

  1. The temple is measured and described in great detail.
  2. The glory of God comes upon it from the east, entering through the east gate.
  3. The altar is restored and purified, and the sacrifices reinstated.
  4. The priesthood is restored and dedicated.
  5. The whole nation is to bring special sacrifices for purification.
  6. The Passover and other festivals are reinstated.
  7. Water comes out from the south side of the temple toward the east, emptying into the Dead Sea and turning it fresh, and sea life flourishes in it.
  8. Trees along the banks bear fruit each month, providing food and healing leaves.
  9. The boundaries of Israel are described: north as far as Damascus, south to just below the Dead Sea, west to the Mediterranean Sea, and east to the Jordan River.
  10. The twelve tribes are allotted their territories, as well as a special area dedicated to God where the temple and priests reside. There is also a wide area for general pastureland, with the city in the center. The city measures about a mile and a half square and will be called “The Lord Is There”.

Daniel 9:24-27

The prophecy is given of 70x7 years: to end and atone for sin, begin eternal righteousness, seal up prophecy, and anoint/dedicate the Most Holy Place.

  1. 7x7 + 62x7 from command to rebuild Jerusalem until Anointed One the ruler comes.
  2. Anointed One put to death.
  3. The people of the coming ruler destroy Jerusalem and the Temple.
  4. War and disasters will continue until the end.
  5. He will confirm a treaty with many for the final 7.
  6. Midway through the 7 he will end Temple sacrifice and desecrate it.
  7. The end decreed upon him will come.

Daniel 11:31-45

Though this was fulfilled in the past by Antiochus Epiphanes, Jesus explicitly stated that the Abomination of Desolation was also future.

  1. A blasphemous king will desecrate the Temple (the Abomination of Desolation).
  2. He will exalt himself above all gods, showing no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women. Instead he will honor a god of fortresses.
  3. He will attack strong fortresses with the help of a foreign god, and he will greatly reward all who honor him, making them rulers and distributing the land for a price.
  4. He will rapidly conquer many countries, including Israel, but Edom, Moab, and the leaders of Ammon will escape his conquest.
  5. Alarming news from the east and north will cause him to set out in a rage, but he will fall between the [Mediterranean] sea and the holy mountain [Zion].

Daniel 12

  1. At that time, there will be unprecedented distress, but your people whose names are in the book will be delivered.
  2. Multitudes who had died will arise, some to eternal life and others to eternal shame and contempt.
  3. Daniel is to seal up these words until the end.
  4. The fulfillment of these things will take 3-1/2 years, and will end when the power of the holy people has been broken.
  5. The commencement of these things will be in the distant future from the time of Daniel.
  6. 1,290 days [~3.5x360] will transpire after the abolishing of the daily sacrifice and the Abomination of Desolation.
  7. There is a blessing for those who wait another 45 days after this.

Joel 2

The Day of the Lord:

  1. An extremely large army comes, laying waste to everything in its path.
  2. Their appearance is like galloping horses, with the noise of chariots, they leap over mountains and swarm like locusts, striking fear into everyone.
  3. The earth shakes before them, the sun and moon are darkened and the stars stop shining.
  4. This army is led by the Lord.
  5. A trumpet is blown, and then the bride and bridegroom are to leave their rooms.
  6. God promises to drive the northern horde away, driving them into both the Mediterranean and Dead seas.
  7. Then God will pour out his Spirit on everyone, male and female.
  8. There will be signs in the heavens, blood and fire on the earth; the sun will go dark and the moon will turn to blood before the great Day of the Lord.

Zechariah 14

A day will come when Jerusalem is plundered and divided up.

  1. All the nations surround the city, ransacking houses and raping women.
  2. Half the city goes into exile.
  3. Then the Lord fights against them. Their flesh will rot while they still stand, their eyes will be consumed in their sockets, their tongues will rot in their mouths, they will kill each other in great panic, and a plague will strike their animals.
  4. His feet stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, splitting the mountain in half.
  5. That day there will be no sun or darkness, no distinction between day and night.
  6. Living water will flow from Jerusalem, half to the Dead Sea and half to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and winter.
  7. The Lord will be king over the whole world.
  8. Jerusalem will never again be destroyed.
  9. Survivors from the attacking nations will visit Jerusalem each year to worship God and celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. Those who refuse will suffer drought and plague.

The Gospels

  1. The gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
  2. When you see Jerusalem surrounded by military encampments, you will know that its ruin is near.
  3. When you see the Abomination of Desolation (as declared through the prophet Daniel) standing in the Holy Place, then those in Judea must run away into the mountains.
  4. There will be terrible stress on the world, and great rage against this people. They will be killed in battle and taken captive to all the other nations. Then Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations until their time is up.
  5. The suffering of those days will be unlike anything that has happened since God first created the world until now, and will never be again. In fact, if the Master didn’t cut those days short, no living thing would survive. But those days will be cut short for the sake of his chosen ones.
  6. Then there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And on the earth, the nations will be filled with anguish and perplexity due to the roaring and turbulence of the sea. People will be deathly afraid and apprehensive of what is coming upon the whole world, for the forces of the heavens will be shaken.
  7. Then they will see Jesus coming in a cloud with great power and majesty. But when you see this all coming to pass, stand up and raise your heads, for you are about to be rescued.

Acts and Letters

James at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:13-18), quoting the prophet Amos, says that “after this” God would rebuild David’s fallen tent so that all mankind would seek God, including the Gentiles bearing his name.

Paul in 1 Cor. 15:35-58 and 1 Thes. 4:13-18 says:

  1. The Lord will descend from heaven.
  2. The archangel will shout.
  3. The trumpet will sound.
  4. The dead Christians will be raised in immortal bodies.
  5. The bodies of the living Christians will be instantly transformed to immortal.
  6. We will all be snatched away into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
  7. This is a message of comfort and hope.

Paul in 2 Thes. 2:1-12 says:

  1. The Departure happens.
  2. The Detainer that had been holding back the Man of Lawlessness is taken out of the way.
  3. The Man of Lawlessness is revealed and identified by his desecration of the temple and declaring himself God.
  4. God sends a strong delusion on all who hated the truth, so that they will be deceived.
  5. Jesus will defeat this man by the breath of His mouth and glory of His arrival.

Revelation

  1. One of the letters to the churches, to Philadelphia, states that they will be kept out of the time of trial to come upon the whole inhabited world.
  2. When John is first taken to heaven, he sees a group of 24 elders wearing victor’s crowns and white clothing.
  3. The three sequences of 7 judgments commence, with numerous references to OT prophecies.
  4. Jesus comes down to earth with the armies of heaven, to face the armies of the world massed against Him.
  5. Satan is bound for a thousand years, during which time the beheaded saints from the Tribulation will co-rule with Jesus.
  6. Satan is briefly released and gathers an army from all over the world, with Gog of Magog mentioned by name.
  7. The army is consumed by fire from heaven, and Satan is thrown into the Lake of Fire with the Beast and False Prophet.
  8. The Great White Throne Judgment begins, and the dead are judged.
  9. Death and Hades are thrown into the Lake of Fire, along with all whose names are not written in the Book of Life.
  10. The present earth and heavens are done away with and replaced by new ones.
  11. The New Jerusalem descends out of heaven, but nothing is said about whether it touches the earth, and it has no temple.

The Foundation

Bible prophecy is interpreted according to whether Israel was to retain its identity beyond its dispersion in 70 a.d. Those who see Israel as having been abandoned forever by God will interpret all remaining prophecies as applying to the church (yet, curiously, they only accept Israel’s blessings and not its curses). But those who see Israel as having been given irrevocable promises by God interpret all remaining prophecies about Israel as literal. So first we must establish what scripture itself says:

Only if the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below be searched out, will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:37)

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. (Ezekiel 36:22-23)

We see in those passages, though certainly there are many others, that God is not yet finished with Israel, since His purposes do not depend upon the faith of its people. In fact, God states clearly that Israel has profaned His name and made Him the object of scorn among the Gentiles. So the argument that Israel today is not the chosen people of God is invalid, since it has nothing to do with their merit. God has scattered them before but brought them back again, so there is no reason to presume that He will not do so in the future.

This doesn’t just concern the people, either, but also the land. The original land of Israel was determined by God Himself: “the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.” (Ex. 3:8, 13:5, etc.) This area is currently known as Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, part of Turkey, and Israel, including Gaza and the West Bank. God promised this area to Abraham’s descendants.

Clearly, then, the land of Israel belongs to God, and the people of Israel belong to God. In their present state of unbelief and hostility to their own Messiah, they must be purged and purified. But it will be by the hand of God, not the church or the Gentiles, since whoever comes against God’s people comes against Him (Zech. 2:8). So while we are not obligated to support or condone what they are doing as a nation, neither are we to attack or condemn them (as if we or any other nation have any grounds for pointing fingers at others anyway).

There is ample archaeological evidence of these ancient Hebrew cities, culture, artifacts, and language. Yet there is no such evidence for any such people as Palestinians; there is no coinage, no inscriptions, no language, nothing. People today blindly swallow the claims of Muslims to prior occupancy, yet not even the Dome of the Rock was built until 691 a.d. A.C. Cresswell in his book Origin of the plan of the Dome of the Rock notes that those who built the shrine used the measurements of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Now we must address the charge that none of the people in Israel today are true Jews by descendance from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but are Khazars and thus the fake Jews spoken of in the book of Revelation. Though this may be provable genetically for many of the people, it is not true of all of them. Neither is it true that all of them are atheists or Kabbalists or occultists. Yet God spares His people no matter how small the number ("remnant"), and it still remains that the land belongs to God. In addition, Gentiles were always allowed to convert to Judaism and given full rights as Jews (Isaiah 56:3-8). So even if the people of Israel today were proven to lack genetic descendancy to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, this does not prevent them from being considered the people of God.

To answer yet another charge, the establishment of modern Israel by ordinary political means does not mean it isn’t a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Was God supposed to just have us all wake up one morning to see that there was a nation of Israel? How else would anyone accept that God had something to do with it? The fact that Israel’s existence in the future was predicted long ago is proof that this is of God. No other nation of antiquity has been “reborn” as has Israel (Isaiah 66:8).

For Christians who say that God can and has broken His promises to Israel due to unbelief, then what makes them think God will not also break His promises to professing Christians who lack faith or keep indulging in sin? The churches today are filled with corruption and worldly hedonism; they have relegated the Bible to myth or irrelevance in the modern world; they embrace all the depravity of the wicked and mock the few voices of rebuke and calls to holiness. If God can abandon Israel, then God can also abandon the church. Those who smugly say that God is finished with Israel should not think God won’t turn His back on them, too.

Having established the foundation of Bible prophecy as that God will not abandon Israel, it follows that the remaining prophecies about Israel and the Hebrew people will be literally fulfilled. Israel and the church have separate destinies and purposes, as explained by both Peter and James in Acts 15, and by Paul in 1 Cor. 10:32 where he lists “Jews, Greeks (Gentiles), and the church of God". Though there is but one Kingdom of Heaven, there are various “provinces” depending on when a righteous person lived. Yes, this is Dispensationalism, but it is entirely Biblical; smearing it by slandering those who are known for this teaching does not change that fact. If God can break His promises to Israel, He can break them to the church, and none of His promises would mean anything. Thus so-called Replacement Theology, whether the church replaces Israel or the church is absorbed into Israel and must obey the Levitial law, means that God does not keep His promises to glorify His name rather than ours.

The Old Testament

Introduction

Under The Foundation it was established that prophecies for the people and land of Israel are literally1 for them rather than for the church. And this church was unknown and unforseen by any of the OT writers, as explained by Paul in Rom. 11:25, 16:25, 1 Cor. 2:7, Eph. 1:9, 3:3-9, Col. 1:26-27, 2:2, and 4:3.2 So when we read the OT prophecies, we must take careful note of the context and scope, which must exclude this as-yet unknown entity. This will be very important as well when we study the New Testament concerning the Gospels.

The Old Testament is what the Hebrews considered their Bible and referred to as the Law and the Prophets. In most Bibles it is not arranged chronologically but rather by size or by the importance or prominence of the writer. Within a particular book there may be retellings or shifts in chronology, so we must pay close attention to the context. And when the topic is prophecy, it is especially important to remember that the context must include other prophecies.

Daniel

Arguably the best-known and most clearly far-reaching prophecies in the OT are found in the book of Daniel. In my blog I go into detail on this book in the article Bible Prophecy: Past or Future?, and I urge you to read that before continuing here. The most important points argued there are as follows:

  1. At least seven years remain to complete all prophecy.
  2. The “prince that shall come” is an individual who heads a kingdom.
  3. This “prince” is identified by the fact that he will confirm a 7-year treaty between Israel and “many”.
  4. He will break the treaty at the midpoint, that is, after 3-1/2 years.
  5. This act will be accompanied by the placing of some kind of idol or image in the sanctuary (the Temple), as well as the prince declaring himself God.

Other Prophecies

But what many overlook is that not all remaining prophecies are found in Daniel, and that it’s entirely possible that some of them will take place just before the 7-year treaty is confirmed while others come afterwards. The primary references will be found in the books of Ezekiel, Psalms, Isaiah, and Zechariah.

Ezekiel

Let’s begin with Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39, which describes a great battle. Make careful note of the fact that this is a battle, not a whole war, so it cannot last for years or decades. On either side of this section are prophecies of Israel’s rebirth (ch. 36-37) and the Millennium3 (ch. 40-48), so if we can consider that chronological (and there is no reason we can’t), then the sequence is clear: Israel is reborn as a nation, there is a great battle, and then comes a period of a thousand years of the rule of God on earth. And though we will see that other prophetic events happen before the Millennium, they do not violate this sequence.

This prophecy is where we are told about entities called God and Magog, whose identities are hotly debated. But we must try our best to figure it out, since telling prophetic events apart can hinge upon the names of the nations involved. First we note that Gog is the name of a ruler, and Magog is the name of his land (38:1-6). Other lands listed as under his domain are Meshech and Tubal. In addition, this ruler will be dragged into battle unwillingly, and will conscript other nations in the process: Persia, Cush, and Put, as well as Gomer and Togarmah “from the far north”.4 This could mean either as far north as possible (which geographically would be roughly the area of Russia), or simply the farthest norther border of Israel (which is roughly the area of Turkey).

Who are all these nations today? If we follow the spread of families in the Genesis genealogies, as well as historical record, the concensus is that Magog was populated by the descendants of Japeth who went to the area now known as Russia, though some hold that all these nations are in Asia Minor. Meschech and Tubal refer to areas north and east of Magog, Persia is modern Iran, Cush and Put are northern Africa, Gomer settled along the Danube River in modern eastern Europe, and Togarmah settled in Turkey.5 The only real dispute is how far north Magog should be placed, but all agree that it is north of Israel.

One might argue that since Turkey et al have one religion common among them to unite them (Islam), it makes no sense to include Russia. But Russia is currently making strong diplomatic and financial ties with various middle eastern nations, being motivated by a desire to destroy the dollar as the world’s reserve currency as well as to dominate the natural gas market. And Israel has a vast amount of natural gas deposits. But keep in mind that Gog is a reluctant leader of this battle.

Psalms

Now to the Psalms, which of course are primarily poetry rather than theology or prophecy. Many Christian teachers err in taking snippets of Psalms as theology applicable to the church today, but even Jesus referred to David as a prophet (though not all the Psalms were written by David, and this one was written by Asaph), so we must cautiously consider prophetic passages in them. Of particular interest is Psalm 83, which was written after about 900 BC. It describes a battle with named nations, yet no such battle has yet taken place, so it remains as a future prophecy.

Specifically, this Psalm begins with the motive for the battle: to wipe Israel off the map. No one would deny that this very desire is rampant today, especially among the nations bordering Israel. These are named as Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia and the people of Tyre, as well as Assyria. Today they comprise the areas of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the desert of southern Israel. This is uncannily descriptive of the ISIS movement at the present time.

Isaiah

This brings us to the prophecy of Isaiah 17, which details the destruction of Damascus, the capitol of Syria. If this battle is what kicks off that of Psalm 83, the net result will be an enlargement of the borders of Israel by the defeat of its immediate neighbors. It will also put Jerusalem fully into the hands of Israel. But most importantly, it may well be the reason Israel finally says, “Peace and security!”… which is a clear sign we will see cited in NT prophecy.

But we would be naive to think that this defeat of many hostile nations would be the end of trouble for Israel. When we consider all the prophesied battles, and the fact that some have one set of nations involved while others have a different set, we can be sure that this is the perfect setup for the attack on Israel in a false sense of security, having let down its guard. This brings us back to Ezekiel 38, where in verse 11 we see that the coalition led by Gog says, “I will invade a land of unwalled villages; I will attack a peaceful and unsuspecting people”. It seems obvious that Israel today is not living in security or peace, but that such a situation will only come about as a result of something like that Isaiah 17 battle.

Zechariah

Finally, we will look at Zechariah and then put this all into a plausible sequence. In his 7th vision he speaks of all the nations of earth turning against Jerusalem, rather than just a few neighboring nations. It includes a very graphic portrayal of the demise of the attackers in 14:12:

This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.

This would seem to fit the description of a neutron bomb, which only destroys people and animals rather than buildings, as would be true of a nuclear bomb. However, this plague could be a direct act of God; we simply cannot know until it happens. But there are other intriguing details in Zechariah, such as references to the two olive trees, which ties in to the prophecy of the Two Witnesses in Revelation. It also speaks of Babylon as moving its operations into the desert, which could refer to the rebuilding of Babylon in its ancient location in Iraq… whose construction of at least the buildings has already begun.

Conclusion So Far

So the sequence of events would appear to be as follows:

  1. The battle of Isaiah 17 which results in the destruction of Damascus
  2. The battle of Psalm 83 which results in the “peace and security” of Israel
  3. The battle of Ezekiel 38-39 prompted by Israel having let down its guard
  4. The battle of Zech. 14 involving the whole world against Jerusalem

Now the question is where to place the 70th week of the prophecy of Daniel. The rationale for its placement will have to wait until we study its ties to Revelation, but it would appear to come between the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Zech. 14. Its reference to the Temple is specific and literal, as one can see by reading the passage. Some try to make the temple mean our bodies, simply by loose association with the NT teaching of the bodies of Christians being called the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is one example of how vital it is to know the context, especially the non-interchangeability of Israel and the church. For the prophecy of Daniel to resume, Israel must return to a covenant relationship with God, which is impossible without a literal Temple. And if it is a literal temple, then this temple must be built before the prophecy can be fulfilled… which will be yet another unmistakable prophetic sign.

So what is the point of knowing this sequence? To refute all the wild and unsubstantiated claims of many today who take everything out of context and try to make every daily event a fulfillment of Bible prophecy, a practice sometimes referred to as “newspaper eschatology”. The diligent student of Bible prophecy does not need to resort to sensationalist headlines or images of Jesus on a piece of toast. Neither is there any justification for applying prophecies concerning a specific geographical area (i.e., the middle east) to America or any other part of the world. The vast majority of Biblical prophecies are specific to Israel or to the city of Jerusalem, and to those cities or nations that come against them.

As pointed out in the opening paragraph of this article, the OT does not tell us about the NT church. And since this is the case, we should not expect to see anything about its duration or involvment in prophecy, including the teaching of the Rapture and its timing. Thus all appeals to the absence of any OT reference to the Rapture as somehow disproving it are unfounded.

The New Testament

The Foundation established Israel and the church as distinct entities in Bible prophecy, each with a separate destiny in the coming kingdom of heaven. The Old Testament examined various OT prophecies concerning the end times, primarily those of Daniel, Ezekiel, Psalms, Isaiah, and Zechariah. But one that was not mentioned was Jeremiah 30:7, from which we get the term “the time of Jacob’s trouble”. This term is widely applied to at least the second half of the 70 Weeks prophecy of Daniel. And as with Daniel, the stated purpose of that time is to purge and discipline the people of Israel, to punish its enemies, and finally to establish it in peace forever.

Now to the NT, and once again I recommend referencing the document Bible Prophecy: Past or Future?. There you will see lists comparing the three Gospel passages that contain the bulk of Jesus’ teachings on the last days: Mat. 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. These are from what is known as the Olivet Discourse, meaning Jesus said these things to his disciples while on the Mount of Olives. What all three passages have in common are:

  1. The Abomination of Desolation (an idol or image erected in the temple to desecrate it)
  2. The command for people of Jerusalem to flee to the mountains
  3. Unprecedented suffering

The first item matches the 70 Weeks prophecy in Dan. 9:27, while the third item matches Dan. 12:1, so clearly Jesus is teaching that these were not fulfilled completely in the past. As explained in the linked document, some details have transpired since the time of Jesus, while others have not.

But as noted in The Foundation, almost everything in Bible prophecy applies specifically to Israel and its enemies, not the church. So when we read the Gospel accounts of what Jesus taught, we must remember that this is still before the church was begun, before the cross, before anyone could have guessed that there would be a church. We should be aware that the Greek word for church, ekklesia, applied to any gathering for a purpose, religious or not. It was commonly used by the Jews to refer to themselves as a nation or more specifically to those in attendance at a synagogue. So when the disciples heard Jesus talk about his church, they would have no idea of some new and unique entity.

With that in mind, we need to pay careful attention to the context of the Olivet Discourse. While many of my fellow believers in the pre-Tribulation Rapture see it there, and I have thought it was in the past, my studies in recent years have convinced me that little, if anything, about the Rapture can be gleaned from the Gospels. Certainly Jesus was laying the foundational teachings for the coming church, and certainly most of the principles he taught apply to the heavenly kingdom regardless of epoch or dispensation. But when we look for teachings or prophecies about the church, we should look primarily at the Letters (epistles).

Now Jesus never specified any certain number of years, never mentioned the confirmation of the treaty from Daniel’s prophecy, and never indicated that he was talking about the church. He was talking to his disciples who would form the foundation of that church, but the question he was answering concerned three specific things:

  1. When will these things happen?
  2. What will be the sign of your coming?
  3. What will be the sign of the end of the age?

What “things” were the disciples talking about? The things Jesus said about the temple being destroyed, but they asked about the end times as well. They knew well enough about Daniel and the rest and were asking very much the same questions we ask today. But we should take note that the Greek word rendered “coming” has the connotation of an official arrival, not just any arrival. So they were asking when he would come as King and establish his earthly kingdom, and they would ask it again before he returned to heaven (Acts 1:6).

Due to the sheer volume of material, please see this commentary on the Gospels and scroll down to the Future section. Of particular interest is the list of signs Jesus gave, which he said would happen at the end of the Great Tribulation. And since they are at the end, they cannot be used to tell us the timing or sequence of the beginning. Yet as the commentary notes, these signs do resemble those that would later be revealed to John as at the 6th Seal judgment, which is clearly not the end but near the beginning. The prophet Joel likewise puts the signs before the Day of the Lord.

There is so much more to look at in those passages, but my purpose here is to note that what Jesus said about the end times matches and augments those of the OT, as well as to point out that the signs he gives can relate to OT prophecies either preceding or following the Tribulation. Especially, we keep in mind that he said these things to Jews before the church was revealed. As noted in the reference to Acts 1, they expected Jesus to come shortly in his glory to establish the kingdom on earth, even after all he had said, so they still knew nothing about a new church and its prophecies.

While Jesus said many things that fit with the OT prophecies, and he would later reveal much more to John, prophecies concerning the church itself are found almost exclusively in the Letters, especially those of Paul. These are found primarily in 1 Corinthians and both letters to the Thessalonians.

In 1 Cor. 15:11-49 Paul answers a question put to him by the church at Corinth concerning the future of those who had died as believers in Christ. Starting with verse 35, he is very irritated with the people for having to ask him what kind of bodies believers will have when they are raised from the dead. He explains that the resurrected body will be much different than the body that had died; the mortal body is not at all like the immortal or spiritual body. This is a key detail to remember when we get to Revelation, since it has bearing on who will be mortal on the earth to repopulate it during the Millennium. If everyone is transformed into their immortal bodies at the end of the Tribulation, there would be no one left to repopulate the world.

But the most direct prophetic reference is in vs. 50-58, where he reveals a formerly-hidden secret: not all believers will experience death. The sequence there is:

  1. The trumpet will sound
  2. The dead will be raised immortal
  3. We will all be transformed in an instant

Paul gives much more detail about this when writing to the Thessalonians. In the first letter, he reassures the people that they need not grieve for the dead as the unbelievers do. Then he gives a more detailed sequence of events in 4:13-18:

  1. The Lord will descend from heaven
  2. The archangel will shout
  3. The trumpet will sound
  4. The dead in Christ will be raised
  5. The living in Christ will be transformed
  6. We will all be transformed in an instant
  7. We will all be snatched away into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air

This, Paul explains, is to be a great comfort to the people to know; not only because they will see their deceased loved ones, but also because they may not have to die at all. The fact that Paul would say this in his day tells us that he believed it could happen at any time. This means there are no signs, no prerequisites, to this “snatching away”. Paul never mentions any judgments, any catastrophes, any Antichrist or other deception, or anything else that matches the prophecies of the OT or the Gospels.

In ch. 5 Paul reminds them that he has already told them about when this would happen. He uses the term “Day of the Lord”, which of course is used throughout the Bible. It will come suddenly upon unsuspecting people living securely and peacefully, but Paul refers to such people as “them”, while “you” will not be caught unawares. He goes on to add that “we” will not suffer the wrath of God, and that this is a message of great comfort. Nobody is comforted by knowing they will suffer the wrath of God, or go through a time of trial such as the world has never seen (per Jesus and Daniel). So this snatching away comes when no one but the church is expecting it, which cannot be true of any time during the Tribulation.

In the second letter, Paul has learned that someone tried to impersonate him and forged a very disturbing letter to the Thessalonians. This forgery claimed that the Day of the Lord had already come, which caused the people to be very upset. Who would be upset that they had missed going through that Day, suffering the wrath of God? The fact that the people were alarmed is evidence that they had been robbed of the comforting news Paul had given them before.

So Paul proceeds to remind them of the fact that that Day, the Day of the Lord and the wrath of God, cannot begin until after what he calls “the departure”. This is typically a transliteration of the Greek word apostasy; that is, many Bibles simply put the Greek word into English letters. But the Greek word simply means to stand apart from something, and only the context identifies what is being departed from. And it is used with the definite article (the), so it is not any ordinary departure but The Departure. Nothing in this context is about false teachings or backsliding, but about the Day of the Lord, that is, prophecy. Thus the sequence here is:

  1. The Departure
  2. The Detainer withdraws
  3. The revealing of the Lawless One (Beast, Antichrist, son of perdition, etc.), who declares himself God in the Temple
  4. The sending of the strong delusion
  5. The defeat of the Lawless One by Jesus

This Departure is the same event as what is more commonly called the Rapture, which is a word taken from the Latin rendering of harpazo, meaning to snatch. That is, Paul uses “snatch” in the first letter and “departure” in the second. This event must happen before the Day of the Lord can commence and the Lawless One can be revealed. There is no mention of this in Revelation at the return of Christ to the earth, and no mention of Christ only returning to the air.

The remaining NT prophecies are of course found in Revelation. But again, due to the volume to be studied and analyzed, I would encourage you to read my commentary on that book at this link. Suffice it to say here that the church is never mentioned by name again after the seven letters until the New Jerusalem descends from heaven at the end of the Millennium.

Proposed Sequence

This will be my attempt at wrapping up all the material into what I sincerely believe is a plausible and likely sequence. But please note that a sequence is not an attempt to say exactly when anything will take place, but only the order of events.

End of the Age of Grace

As explained under New Testament, I believe the church will be raptured out of the world without any warning or preceding sign. 1 Thes. 5:9 states that the church is “not appointed to suffer wrath”, and Rev. 3:7-8 says that the church of Philadelphia will be kept “out of the hour of trial that is about to come upon the whole inhabited world, to test all who live on the earth.” No mention of this event in the Letters ever states that something else must happen first, or we would have been told what to look for. When Paul told the church at Thessalonica about the Day of the Lord, he said that it was the Departure (Rapture) that had to happen before that Day could begin. Never does Paul speak of wars, the Beast, Daniel’s prophecies, or anything else when he talks about the Departure of the church, a strange and glaring omission when giving a sequence of events the church was to look for. It is the Christ we are to watch for, not the Antichrist.

So the Rapture is the first thing to look for, and there will be no Christians remaining on earth to look for what comes after it. There will eventually be both Gentiles and Jews who turn to God and accept Jesus as Messiah, but they are not part of the church. And outside of the Letters, practically all prophecy is focused on the Jews and the enemies of God. More will be said about the church when covering Revelation, and we must keep in mind that it was given after Paul had died. So whatever trumpets and shouts Paul referred to cannot be mapped to the Revelation that had not yet been given, since he was appealing to what the people should already have known.

Transition

Considering the OT prophecies as well as Revelation, I see a period of time between the Rapture and the start of the Tribulation (final 7 years of Daniel’s prophecy, as opposed to the Great Tribulation which is the 2nd half of that 7 years). The Tribulation begins when “the prince that shall come” confirms a 7-year treaty between Israel and “many”. But such a monumental event won’t happen on a whim or without extraordinary preceeding events. Thus I see some of the lesser-known OT prophecies taking place to open the door to that treaty.

We can divide the OT prophecies according to the details given in each, such as names of nations and references to how life is being lived in general at the time. Events that speak of celestial or terrestrial devastation can hardly come at the beginning of the Tribulation, since as the judgments progress they become worse and worse. For example, it seems extremely improbable that people would send gifts to each other when all the oceans have died and turned to blood, all the mountains have been shifted or leveled, and people are cursing God for their terrible suffering. So we need to keep in mind what condition the world is in when we look at prophetic details.

From the premise just presented, it seems likely to me that the prophecies of Psalm 83, Jeremiah 30:7, and Ezekiel 38-39 will be fulfilled between the Rapture and the Tribulation. Isaiah 17’s prophecy against Damascus is harder to pin down, but it certainly could be a result of these preliminary battles, since the people of Israel will turn back to God (at least as in the old covenant relationship they had in Jesus’ day, picking up where they left off). A plausible scenario is that the ruin of Damascus will trigger the battle of Psalm 83, which involves the immediate neighbors of present-day Israel. Afterwards, Israel feels “peace and security”, which is the Antichrist’s cue to confirm the treaty. Such a treaty will likely involve permission to build the Temple in Jerusalem, perhaps in exchange for laying down their arms. It’s also possible that the Rapture is what triggers the ruin of Damascus and many other events.

Seals

Personally, I believe that the Seal judgments (Rev. 6:1-8:1) come between the Rapture and the Tribulation. In Revelation we are told that the first four Seal judgments are the four horses: conquest, war, economic crash, and mass death of 1/4 the world’s population. If the “sudden destruction” of the beginning of the Day of the Lord that comes when “they say ’peace and security’” (1 Thes. 5:3) is after the Psalm 83 battle and subsequent security of Israel, the next battle would be that of Isaiah 38, which involves the nations around Israel but more distant than the conquered immediate neighboring nations. They come to plunder “a peaceful and unsuspecting people who have recovered from war”.

So it would seem, then, that so far we have the Rapture, the ruin of Damascus and battle of Psalm 83, the Seal judgments (the 5th denotes persecution of those who had turned to God after the Rapture, and the 6th is when the whole world fears what is about to happen due to extreme natural disasters), and then the signing of the 7-year treaty, after which the “unsuspecting people” are attacked. Then the Trumpet judgments begin as the Tribulation commences. It could be that the significance of the half-hour of silence at the 7th seal is the lull before the storm, so to speak.

Trumpets

Because of details given in Revelation concerning when the Two Witnesses are killed by the Beast at the 6th Trumpet, after having preached for 3-1/2 years, I believe they begin their work early in the Tribulation., during the same period in which the 144,000 are sealed and sent out as witnesses. Such witnesses would not be needed while the church was still here, but the clear shift to Israel and that these are all from the 12 tribes further confirm that the church is not on earth at this point. We have picked up where things left off in the first century.

Read the text of Rev. chapter 8 for details on the Trumpet judgments. As opposed to the 1/4 proportion of the Seals, the Trumpets are characterized by 1/3: fire burns 1/3 of the earth, grass and trees, the waters of 1/3 of the rivers are poisoned, and the light of the sun and moon are reduced by 1/3. It is at the 5th Trumpet that the Abyss is opened, out of which comes a plague of locusts that torture people for 5 months... but only people who have not taken the seal of God on their foreheads. This Trumpet is also called the first of three “woes”. The 6th Trumpet / 2nd Woe is when the 200 million-soldier army crosses the Euphrates River and kills 1/3 of the world’s population.

It is during this 6th Trumpet / 2nd Woe that we are introduced to the Two Witnesses. By their description they are clearly individual human beings— not nations, not portents in the sky, not the church and the Jews, etc. Scripture never identifies them beyond calling them the “two olive trees and two lampstands set before the Lord of the Earth”. After 3-1/2 years the Beast from the Abyss will kill them. People will gawk at their unburied corpses in the main square of Jerusalem and send each other gifts in celebration of their death, which is a most unlikely possibility at the end of the Tribulation. Much devastation has already occurred and the world is crippled, but people will believe their suffering has just ended. But after 3-1/2 days God brings them back to life, and their enemies watch in terror as they are taken up into heaven, after which there is a huge earthquake that kills 7,000 people.

Then the 7th Trumpet / 3rd Woe begins at Rev. 11:15, and a mysterious woman is described. She is “a woman clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1-6), whose description identifies her as the nation of Israel (see Gen. 37:5-11). It is Israel who “gave birth” to the one who “will rule the nations with an iron rod”, meaning Jesus, who was “snatched up” to heaven 40 days after his resurrection. Then Rev. 12:7 says there will be “war in heaven” between the archangel Michael and his army, and the Dragon and his army. The latter are defeated and thrown down to earth. This is when the Dragon pursues Israel who is told to run to “a place prepared for her in the desert, where she will be protected for 1,260 days” or 3-1/2 years, using the 360-day ancient calendar.

Take careful note of the fact that this period of 3-1/2 years is the Great Tribulation, since it is the last half of the 7-year Tribulation. This means that everything else had to have transpired by the end of the 7th Trumpet / 3nd Woe, so this marks the midpoint where the “prince” violates the treaty by desecrating the Temple, placing an image or idol in it and declaring himself God, as prophesied by Daniel and implied in Rev. 13:14-17 since everyone is commanded to worship the first Beast. (The 1st and 2nd Beasts are understood to be the same as the Beast and False Prophet.) So the sequnce so far is Rapture, Seals, and Trumpets.

Between the 7th Trumpet / 3rd Woe and the first Bowl judgment (or, alternatively, part of the 7th Trumpet / 3rd Woe) are several important events. One is that we are shown the 144,000 again, but they are on Mt. Zion and never separated from the Lamb (Jesus). These are described as having been “bought from mankind as a first harvest to God and to the Lamb”. So they are not part of the final judgments to come. Another is the fall of Babylon the Great, which I would encourage you to read more about at my Commentary on Revelation. Yet another is the fact that great persecution will break out against anyone not worshiping the Beast, while those who do and who took the Mark are doomed forever (Rev. 14:9-11).

Then in Rev. 14:17-20 we see a description of a great battle on earth. Its location is “outside of the city”, with “the city” being a common reference to Jerusalem. There is so much carnage that the blood rises to the level of a horse’s bridle for a distance of about 184 miles. No mention is made here about Armageddon ("the valley of Megiddo"). Megiddo is mentioned in Zech. 12 and seems to be part of the same “day” when, after ch. 13 describes the death of Jesus, ch. 14 describes a battle where all the nations surround Jerusalem and ransack it. But before that prophecy concludes with Jesus’ return to earth and splitting the Mount of Olives in two, Revelation tells us that 7 judgments remain.

Bowls

The Bowl Judgments transpire during the 2nd half of the Tribulation. Those Jews who saw the Temple desecrated and ran to safety will ride out this time in a protected area, while those who stayed were ransacked and killed. But now God pours out the most extreme judgments on the Beast and his kingdom. Instead of 1/4 or 1/3, these judgments destroy completely. Terrible, disgusting sores break out on everyone with the Mark of the Beast (1); the world’s oceans become blood and everything in them dies (2); the same happens to all the springs and rivers (3); the sun begins to scorch people (4); darkness covers the kingdom of the Beast (5); the Euphrates River dries up and allows passage of “the kings of the east”, then the whole world assembles for the infamous Battle of Armageddon (6).

When the 7th and final Bowl is poured out, Jerusalem splits into three parts as a result of a great earthquake, the likes of which has never happened before, even destroying all the mountains and islands in the world. But then, while it’s completely dark and the earth is devastated, God begins to rain down hailstones weighing 100 lbs. each. But before finishing the description of the battle, Rev. 17 begins a description of “the other woman”, the one riding the Beast. Again, please see the Commentary for detailed analysis. But we should note that it is at this point and no earlier when God says, “Come out of her, my people”. This is one of the most commonly-misapplied statements in the Bible.

Transition

After the description of the demise of Babylon, Jesus descends from heaven on a white horse, followed by the armies of heaven. The massed armies of the Beast foolishly align themselves for battle against Jesus and his army, but before the battle begins, the Beast and False Prophet are thrown alive into the Lake of Fire. The rest are killed by the broadsword of Jesus, such that the armies of heaven had only to watch. Then Satan is chained in the Abyss for a thousand years.

It is during this time that Jesus “separates the sheep from the goats” (Mat. 25:31-46). He names three groups: sheep, goats, and “the least of these”. Both the sheep and the goats have very similar good deeds, but the goats were selective and did not include “the least of these” in their charitable deeds. But who are “the least of these”? In my opinion, they are Jews, while the sheep and goats are Gentiles. Some Gentiles treated the Jews kindly during the Tribulation, while others treated them poorly. The kind Gentiles and righteous Jews enter into the Millennium as the mortals who repopulate the world.

Millennium

Israel in the Millennium
Israel in the Millennium, from Sons to Glory
Revelation says nothing about the Millennium except that Jesus’ rule is accompanied by judges comprised of those who had been beheaded during the Tribulation. This is called “the first resurrection”, yet it is clearly not applicable to the resurrection of the dead in Christ, since all of these people are those who had been beheaded for refusing to take the Mark of the Beast.

Some of the remaining OT prophecies transpire during this time, such as the surviving Gentiles bringing their wealth into Jerusalem (Zech. 14), and the restoration of the land of Israel and a sacrificial system (Ezekiel 40-48).6 The measurements of the earthly city of Jerusalem distinguish it from the heavenly New Jerusalem that will descend at the end of the Millennium; careful attention to the details will show this to be indisputable. It may be that just as the first temple was a scale model of the one in heaven, so also the earthly city will be a scale model of the New Jerusalem.

Eternity Future

After the Millennium, Satan is briefly freed again to deceive the nations. This brings history full-circle from the Garden of Eden, where God proves in both cases that people will rebel against God even in a perfect environment. The world has been repopulated by righteous survivors of the judgments, but the children of these survivors will have no memory of the world run by Satan and evil people. They too will have to make a conscious choice about whether or not to live in the kingdom of God, and Satan will conscript all who choose the latter.

So at the end, Satan himself is thrown into the Lake of Fire, and all the people who ever rebelled against God are thrown in as well. Death and Hades are thrown in too, since there is no more need for them. Then, in Rev. 21, we are told many details about the New Jerusalem. It isn’t stated that this huge city ever touches the earth, but only that it descends from heaven. It is called “the wife, the bride of the Lamb”, and nothing is ever said about the people of the newly-rebuilt city of Jerusalem in the land of Israel moving to the New Jerusalem. Some prophecy teachers believe that the land city is for Jews, while the new city is for Christians.

What happens after that, we are not told. But there is nothing that says we’ll be stuck playing harps forever, or grow wings, or any of a hundred other tales that have been told over the years. If we love and trust God, we can be sure that there was more to all this human history than sitting on clouds for eternity. All we know is that “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Final Thoughts

All God has asked of anyone is to trust him; is that so hard to do? We have been given a taste of Satan’s kingdom in this life, and Satan will not treat you kindly or give you your heart’s desires; he can only destroy and hate. Eternity with God in bliss and comfort is the only other choice, so shaking your fist at God and demanding to be your own God is futile, like an ant demanding access to your food if it is powerless to take it by force. All you need to do is believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, who died and rose again, for the purpose of being reconciled to God. Then live like it matters; be grateful and eager to please your Savior. And above all, be eager to see Him soon.


Notes:

  1. The Literal/Grammatical/Historical Hermeneutic is the formal name given to this method of interpretation. It does not mean that genre or context is ignored, but just the opposite. As used in this document, it is in contrast to the method of some whereby everything is held to be allegorical or spiritualized… a method which turns any document into a lump of clay to be fashioned any way the reader desires.
  2. The word typically rendered “mystery” in most translations is the Greek word musterion, but this word means “secret”. That is, it is not a riddle we have to figure out, but something formerly hidden which is now revealed.
  3. The word millennium is a Latin word meaning “thousand years”. Though the Bible in its original languages does not use this word, it spells out the phrase “one thousand years”, and it is convenient to use the label Millennium to refer to a specific “one thousand years” in Bible prophecy. This habit of assigning a handy label to a theological concept is seen also in terms such as the Trinity or the Rapture. So it is fallacious to argue that such words are not found anywhere in the Bible.
  4. Directions in Bible prophecy are always from the perspective of Israel, especially Jerusalem.
  5. Some nice maps and research can be found at Joel’s Trumpet and