A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
13th Annual Update January 2014
There are seven major prophetic signs of the Second Coming, and currently all of them are in some stage of fulfillment. As in years past, I’ll list the seven with their primary biblical references and offer commentary from current events.
1. Israel Will Be In The Land … Ezekiel 36:8-12, 37:21
Speaking to the Land God said,
“You, O mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people Israel, for they will soon come home. I am concerned for you and will look on you with favor; you will be plowed and sown, and I will multiply the number of people upon you, even the whole house of Israel. The towns will be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. I will increase the number of men and animals upon you, and they will be fruitful and become numerous. I will settle people on you as in the past and will make you prosper more than before. Then you will know that I am the LORD. I will cause people, my people Israel, to walk upon you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance; you will never again deprive them of their children.
And to the people He said,
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land.
Although Ezekiel wrote these words while the Israelites were in Babylon, they were not fulfilled in the nation’s return from exile there. Like Isaiah before him (Isaiah 11:11) Ezekiel was speaking of the second and final return, not the one after the Babylon captivity. We know this because in Ezekiel 36:12 the Lord said His people would possess the mountains of Israel, and they would never again deprive His people of their children. That means from the time this prophecy was fulfilled there would always be Jewish children born in Israel. And yet in the first century, the nation ceased to exist altogether. Therefore in 1948, when Israel took its place among the nations of the world again for the first time in nearly 2000 years, students of prophecy recognized the fulfillment of the primary sign that the end of the age was upon us. Since that time there have been numerous attempts by Israel’s enemies to undo what God has done, but they’ve all failed. Jesus said some from the generation being born when Israel was reborn would still be alive when He returns (Matt. 24:34).
2. Jerusalem Will Be In Jewish Hands… Luke 21:24
They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
The Lord prophesied that the reunification of Jerusalem as a Jewish City would be a sign that foreign (gentile) influence over His land, and indeed the world, was coming to an end (Luke 21:24). Fulfillment of this prophecy began in 1967, when Jerusalem became an undivided Jewish city again, and scholars saw it as another major sign that the End of the Age had begun. The almost world wide effort to re-divide the city is in essence a battle of wills. Nearly every Israeli leader has stood firmly on a pledge to keep Jerusalem united forever as Israel’s capital, but the unbelieving leaders of the world are just as resolutely determined to divide it with the Palestinians.
The Lord said that at the End of the Age He will make Jerusalem a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling, an immovable rock for all nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves. (Zechariah 12:2-3) This past year much of the talk against Israel has been focused on Jerusalem. American leaders, traditionally some of Israel’s most loyal allies, have publicly called East Jerusalem occupied territory and demanded that no more Jewish homes be built there. They have even tried to halt construction in undisputed neighborhoods.
I’ve come to believe that Jerusalem won’t really be free of Gentile “trampling” until the Lord returns. Daniel’s prophecy that Gentile Dominion would not end until the Lord establishes His kingdom (Daniel 2:36-45), Zechariah’s prophecy of half the city’s inhabitants going into exile just before the Lord’s return (Zech. 14:2), and John’s observation in Rev. 11:1-2 of the gentiles trampling the outer court of the Temple during the Great Tribulation all confirm this. But even so, the fact that Jerusalem is back in Jewish hands is another big sign that the End is coming soon.
3. A Muslim Coalition Armed And Led By Russia Will Attack The Holy Land… Ezek. 38:2-6
“Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws and bring you out with your whole army–your horses, your horsemen fully armed, and a great horde with large and small shields, all of them brandishing their swords. Persia, Cush and Put will be with them, all with shields and helmets, also Gomer with all its troops, and Beth Togarmah from the far north with all its troops–the many nations with you.”
Numerous historical references make it plain that Magog stands for modern Russia, and the other countries named here form a coalition based on their common religion, Islam. Among them are Iran, several North African countries, Eastern European countries along the Danube, and the Turkic nations of Asia Minor. A quick look at a world map will reveal that these areas are home to some of the most radical Islamic groups. (For a detailed explanation of the modern nations to which these Biblical names refer, read “An In Depth Look At The Modern Equivalent To Biblical Names in Ezek.38″)
Directly or indirectly, the Russians are already a supplier of arms for the nations who will form this coalition, just as Ezekiel prophesied, and will be drawn into joining in this battle by God Himself. Russia’s barely disguised policy of becoming the major outside force in the Middle East is playing right into the Lord’s hands. Russia has moved part of its Black Sea fleet into the Eastern Mediterranean with a home port in Tartus, Syria and has deployed shore to ship and anti-aircraft missile batteries in Syria as well. Russia and Iran are well into the implementation of a $50 billion deal to provide Iran with nuclear power. The 10 reactors called for in the deal are supposedly for electrical power generation, but most western leaders are convinced they’ll be used to create material for bombs, too.
And at year end Iran announced a coming agreement with Russia for a massive oil-for-goods program that will allow them to side step the sanctions currently in place on their oil exports and increase them by 50% (worth about $1.5 billion per month). This will substantially ease the economic pain they’ve been feeling due to the sanctions program. Since Russia is already a net exporter of oil, it is believed that Iran will actually be providing oil to other countries under Russia’s name.
Various experts had claimed that Iran would become a nuclear power in 2013, and many still think this will become a reality in 2014. Israel and the US have both vowed to prevent that from ever happening but prevention seems to be far from a sure thing. Currently Iran is blatantly violating several provisions of the “agreement” negotiated with the major powers in Nov. 2013, saying,”“We don’t aspire to obtain a nuclear bomb, but it is necessary so that we can put Israel in its place…” (Iranian Majlis member Mohammed Nabavian).
It’s important to remember that if Israel launches a preventive strike against Iran it would not be a fulfillment of Ezekiel 38. The prophecy calls for a sneak attack on Israel, not the other way around. Currently that prerequisite is the major obstacle to an early fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy. It has to occur at a time when Israel is “a peaceful and unsuspecting people” (Ezekiel 38:11) and this certainly is not the case today.
But Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17 are yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecies that taken together appear to involve all of Israel’s next door neighbors in another attempt to wipe the Jewish nation off the map. A victory by Israel would explain why these next door neighbors are not named in Ezekiel’s list of antagonists, although you’d expect them to be at or near the top of the list. It would also explain how Israel could soon be living in a perceived state of safety as Ezekiel 38:11 requires.
Syria came very close to suffering the fulfillment of Isaiah 17 in 2013 and surrounding nations are still on a war footing. Many experts believe a regional war is imminent, but at year’s end it hasn’t happened yet. I think there’s a better than even chance that if the situation in Syria deteriorates into a fulfillment of Isaiah 17, it will trigger Psalm 83 as well, and at year end it still looked as if that could happen any time.
Another prerequisite for Ezekiel’s battle is clearly being met. Till now Israel really hasn’t had any wealth to speak of, but recent oil and gas discoveries, said to be worth billions of dollars, could provide the wealth necessary to make Israel an attractive target for attack. This could fulfill the precondition of Ezekiel 38:13 that Russia will be looking for plunder. These discoveries could make enough natural gas available to supply Israel’s needs for more than 100 years while turning the country from a net importer to a net exporter. Russia is already looking for ways to get involved in bringing this gas to market, and according to Ezekiel they’ll eventually go to war in what will turn out to be a failed attempt to do so by force.
I believe the removal of the US as Israel’s powerful ally is also necessary to pave the way for Ezekiel’s battle, because I don’t think the Muslim coalition will attack until they’re sure the US won’t retaliate. Any one of several scenarios currently being played out could accomplish this, especially since our national policy toward Israel is not what it once was. Because of our failures in Syria and our about face toward Iran many in the middle East, including Israel, no longer believe we’ll follow through on our promise to “have Israel’s back” if it should come to that. Add to that the rising threat of a terrorist event in our homeland, our continuing economic weakness, and the nearness of the Rapture of the Church, and it’s becoming a whole lot easier to see how the US could abandon its commitment to Israel.
When the time is right, having recently taken His church to Heaven, the Lord will use this battle to orchestrate His reconciliation with Israel, and on its heels the anti Christ will emerge with a peace plan that includes a Jewish Temple. So once this battle takes place, end times prophecy will really go on fast forward.
4. The Ancient Roman Empire Will Re-Emerge As A Political Force… Rev 17:9-10
“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.”
This one is a little obscure if you don’t know your history. When John was writing this, about 95AD, there had been five great world powers; Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. All had been conquered and absorbed. The current power was Rome, which was never really conquered and will re-emerge at the end of the age.
About 600 years earlier, the Prophet Daniel had spoken of a period of time theologians call Gentile Dominion that gives us added insight into Rev. 17:9-10. In Daniel 2:36-45 Gentile Dominion is symbolized by a giant statue that Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had dreamed about. Egypt and Assyria had recently been defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel said the statue represented the four remaining Gentile kingdoms, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. In the dream, Babylon was the head of the statue and was made of gold. Persia was the chest and arms, made of silver. Greece was the belly and thighs of bronze, followed by the two appearances of Rome, two legs of iron (Biblical Rome) and two feet of iron mixed with clay (the revived Roman Empire). After that God would set up His own, eternal, kingdom.
There are some interesting details in the description of the two feet upon which the statue stands. Remember, they represent the end times version of the Roman Empire. Let’s read it.
Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay (Daniel 2:41-43).
In the first place iron and clay don’t mix. We can imagine sticky clay serving as glue that holds pieces of iron together, but the language describes a clay that’s already baked, hard and brittle like shards of pottery.
You can’t make random pieces of iron and pottery adhere, and according to Daniel 2:41-43 this will be the end times empire’s insurmountable problem. Today the western leg is known as Europe while the Eastern leg consists of the Islamic nations of the Middle East. Although the world is currently focused on the economic challenges Europe faces, ultimately the number one issue of this end times empire will be that of integrating the vastly dissimilar cultures of the western and eastern legs. They are just too different to be blended and already the failure of the European social experiment called multi-culturalism has become evident. Throughout the end times the revived Roman Empire will be partly strong (eastern leg) and partly brittle (western leg) and will not adhere. I’m convinced the aggressive and growing culture of the eastern leg (Islam) will overtake the dying culture of the west and become the dominant voice of Europe. Nevertheless the prophecy clearly shows both divisions present until the Lord returns to set up His Kingdom, putting an end to Gentile Dominion forever (Daniel 2:44).
5. The World Will Embrace A Single Religion… Rev 13:8
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
Islam is a major religious force in the world today and the goal of Islam is nothing less than world domination, by any means necessary. It’s the world’s fastest growing religion and is second only to Christianity in number of adherents. Already nearly one out of every four inhabitants of the world is Muslim, and like most Christians and Jews they don’t really know what they believe or why. I’m no prophet, but as I look into the future, it’s much easier for me to see Islam riding its current wave of momentum to fill the void left by the departure of the Church than it is to imagine some watered down mix of apostate Christianity and New Age Mysticism doing so.
By now most serious students of the end times are aware of Muslim prophecies of the one they call alMahdi and their striking resemblance to Christian prophecies of the anti-Christ. For example, both show a leader coming on the scene during a time of great turmoil on Earth. Both depict him as man of peace who will have a seven year reign, head up a one world religion and one world government, and claim supernatural origins. Both prophecies culminate in a battle between good and evil that brings about Earth’s final judgment. It’s as if they’re pointing to the same person. The difference is that in Islam he’s a good guy, while the Bible calls him evil.
Take this charismatic political and religious leader with his supernatural power, add the widely held but incorrect belief that God and Allah are the same, and that Islam is a religion of peace, and then subtract the spirit of discernment that will disappear with the Church and you can see how this charismatic Islamic leader could unite a frightened world on the brink of disaster.
Currently there’s a growing battle between the two major sects of Islam, the Shiites and the Sunnis. A substantial majority of Muslims are Sunnis (1.2 Billion) while only 200 million are Shiite. They agree on many aspects of their faith but are sharply divided when it comes to which sect will control the Islamic world. I believe this division will continue to grow until it finally erupts in to an all out battle for control of the coming Islamic Caliphate.
6. The World Will Accept A Single Government… Rev 13:3
The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.
When you look at the deteriorating shape of the world today, it doesn’t take much to imagine conditions getting to a point where people will cry out for a leader who can bring order out of chaos. Whether the issue is climate change, the decline of the US dollar, the economic collapse of Europe, or war in the Middle East, the one solution most leaders agree on is the need for some form of world government. With the things that already threaten world stability getting worse by the day, how much more frantic will people be after millions of their neighbors suddenly disappear in the rapture without warning or explanation, and there’s been a war (Ezekiel 38) that brings destruction from Europe through the Middle East and into Russia? When people become convinced that their problems cannot be solved by human means alone they look to the supernatural for answers. In this regard, Paul wrote:
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing (2 Thes 2 :9-10)
A leader who promises to restore peace and safety and demonstrates miraculous power that astonishes everyone will quickly be given the reins of world government. By many accounts, this lawless one is standing in the wings as you read this, awaiting his cue.
7. Babylon Will Re-Emerge As A Prominent City In World Affairs… Rev 18:2-3
With a mighty voice he shouted: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
You may not realize this, but Babylon is being made ready to accept its destiny as a focus of world power in the end times. It’s just a ceremonial city right now, but 25 years ago nobody even knew it existed at all. One of the shocks of Gulf War 1 was the discovery of Babylon standing there on the banks of the Euphrates River. Today there’s a concerted effort underway to complete what Saddam Hussein began and return Babylon to world prominence. The Iraqi Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has unveiled a strategic plan to restore and rehabilitate heritage and tourism sites beginning in 2014. As you might suspect, Babylon is at the head of the list.
Because of Babylon’s current lack of importance in the world, some students of prophecy search for an allegorical fulfillment of its destruction described in Rev. 18, and of course many see the USA or some American city as a logical candidate. But remember, even though in Revelation 17:9 John describes “mystery Babylon” as seated on seven hills, a prophecy in Zechariah 5:5-11 shows it being moved “to the plains of Shinar” a reference to ancient Mesopotamia called Iraq today. We can’t switch from literal to allegorical interpretations of Scripture without clear direction, and where Babylon is concerned no such direction exists. In fact the opposite is true. Almost from the beginning, the Bible has been a tale of two cities. Jerusalem is the city of God while Babylon has always been the city of man. Both disappeared from the world stage for many centuries, but when Jerusalem came back it was to its original location. The Bible says the same will be true of Babylon.
Birth Pains … Matt. 24:6-8
You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
Experts say the big things to watch for in 2014 will be the actions of nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom. The first of these will likely take place in the Middle East. NATO, the USA, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and several Arab countries all have troops standing by in the region. The possibility of this spilling over into Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel is thought to be very high and could easily bring the fulfillment of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17.
Iran’s barely concealed plan for acquiring nuclear weaponry has resulted in at least one other Middle Eastern country making a decision to go nuclear. During 2013 it was reported that Saudi Arabia has purchased, but not taken delivery of, nuclear weaponry for its own use from Pakistan. Saudi Arabia is also said to have entered into secret agreements to provide assistance should Israel decide to preemptively destroy Iran’s research and production capabilities.
In the Far East, China is building up its military capabilities. According to a US Department of Defense report released in May 2013, “the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is engaged in a massive, extensive modernization program, drawing upon the resources of a constantly expanding economy (now the world’s second largest) to support improvements in not only the ground forces, but the PLA Navy, the PLA Air Force, the Second Artillery (China’s rocket forces), as well as space and cyber-espionage capabilities.” In addition to the obvious threat this poses to China’s neighbors, it has also been reported that China eventually expects to go to war against the US.
Africa has become a major battleground as forces loyal to Islam continue in their efforts to gain control of the continent. Somalia and Sudan, the Congo, and Libya are but a few of the hot spots that have created 9 million refugees and internally displaced people. Hundreds and thousands of people have been slaughtered from a number of conflicts and civil wars on the African continent.
There will also be big problems in the EU if they can’t stabilize their economy. World financial leaders have warned that Europe’s failure to resolve their difficulties will plunge the world back into an even worse recession than the one we’ve supposedly just come out of. Predictions are being made of widespread civil unrest as the consequence of failure. These same observers consider a workable solution to be unlikely and speculate that 2014 could very well begin the world’s time of payback for years of overspending.
Food prices remain uncertain and experts warn us not to relax. The price of food will continue to be volatile and among the poor will still consume more than 45% of household income. Already 1 out of every 6 people in the world goes to bed hungry every night. Experts have said it would only take one or two years of poor crop production to bring a serious famine to the world. Here in America, participation in the food stamp program continues to set records with one out of every 6 citizens now receiving regular help. Combined with higher food prices the continuing growth of this program will further stress a fragile economy.
But many places in the world don’t have a government willing or able to go into debt to feed them. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, one person out of eight in the world’s population suffers from chronic undernourishment. Half of the world’s 10.9 million child deaths each year is at least partly due to undernourishment. That works out to 6,000 children every day.
Earthquakes are now an everyday occurrence with an average of over 3 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or higher somewhere in the world every day. On the bright side 2013 had the lowest number of total reported earthquakes in recent history, although those registering 7.0 or higher were more numerous than many past years.
The Lord said these birth pangs would be the early warning signs of the approaching End of the Age, so I have included the above examples to confirm my belief that we’re very close to our last days on Earth. While predictions of what 2014 may bring are all over the spectrum, Christians needn’t worry because we walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). Our citizenship is in Heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20). Therefore, when we see these things begin to take place we’re to stand up and lift up our heads because our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28). These promises have never been more important to us than they will be in 2014. Happy New Year! May all the Lord’s blessings be yours. 01-11-14.