A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
14th Annual Update January 2015
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 comments from current events. These comments are based on reports from a variety of international news services that have appeared in our daily “Prophecy In The Headlines” feature during the past year.
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.
In 2014 the demand for Israel to at least retreat behind pre 1967 borders has reached a fever pitch again, and some have even gone further. Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, The Islamic State (ISIS – which seemed to come out of nowhere this year and is already an international menace) and other related groups are openly calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the Earth.
Rocket fire against southern Israel reached an all time high this summer with over 700 rockets from Gaza landing on Israeli soil during a single week. Israel mounted a 50 day military action to stop the rockets and destroy secret underground tunnels Hamas had built under Israel’s southern border. These tunnels would have allowed bands of terrorists to suddenly emerge within Israel and attack the unsuspecting population. Although many of the tunnels were destroyed, the dust had barely settled before Hamas began building more, and demanding that Israel pay for the damage they caused while destroying them.
Also, this year saw a further deterioration of relations between Israel and the US, and for the first time the possibility of US sanctions being imposed against Israel was raised. Russia is also reportedly studying what beneficial effects an attack on Israel might have as a response to the west’s attempts to isolate Russia for destabilizing the Ukraine. Anti-semitism is returning to a level not seen since WW2, several European countries have voted to recognize “The State Of Palestine”, the Israeli government is taking enormous flack for declaring Israel to be a Jewish nation even though it’s charter already says it is, and its Muslim neighbors are enraged over rumors that Israel wants to make it possible for Jews to worship on the Temple Mount.
How much more of this can Israel be expected to take? What other legitimate country in the world is routinely subjected to such attacks? Little do Israel’s enemies know that they are acting against the stated will of God, and the more pressure they apply against Israel, the sooner God Himself will intervene of behalf of His people. Speaking for Him, Ezekiel said, “I will display My glory among the nations and all the nations will see the punishment I inflict and the hand I will lay upon them” (Ezekiel 39:21).
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.
Jesus prophesied that the reunification of Jerusalem as a Jewish City would be a sign that foreign (gentile) influence over the Promised 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 divide the city again 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 see it divided with the Palestinians. At year end, a UN Security Council measure that would have required Israel to make East Jerusalem the capital of a Palestinian state came within one vote of passing. The Palestinian resolution might be resubmitted early in 2015 due to a change in the Security Council’s make up effective January 1.
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 year much of the talk against Israel has been focused on Jerusalem with Hamas and ISIS loudly declaring the time has come to “liberate Jerusalem.” American leaders have joined in, publicly calling East Jerusalem “occupied territory” and demanding that no more Jewish homes be built there. They have even spoken against construction in undisputed neighborhoods of Jerusalem, saying it’s harmful to the “peace process.”
Numerous “lone wolf” attacks have also occurred against civilians in Jerusalem this year with some Palestinians calling for a “Jerusalem Intifada.” Unarmed civilians and even little children have been targeted.
The Bible tells us Jerusalem won’t really be free of Gentile “trampling” until the Lord returns. Daniel’s prophecy that Gentile Dominion will 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”)
As I mentioned above, Russia is exploring the possibility of attacking Israel (using Syrian and Hezbollah forces) in retaliation for the US led imposition of sanctions arising from Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Additionally, Hamas has come back under Iran’s sponsorship and will soon be headquartered in Tehran. This now gives Iran proxy armies on both the northern (Hezbollah) and southern (Hamas) borders with Israel. Iran has also begun funneling arms into the West Bank with a goal of completely surrounding Israel with a strong, motivated, and well equipped army.
Recent reports also reveal that the US and Iraq are putting together an army of Iraqi Shiite soldiers for the purpose of countering the Sunni ISIS forces, and that this army will be under the direct control of Iran. Iranian sources claim this new army will be even bigger than Hezbollah, which is also Shiite. Iraq will provide the manpower, the US will contribute training, funding and weaponry, and Iran will assume the leadership responsibility. Supplies are already being stockpiled for a major operation against ISIS in 2015.
It doesn’t take much of an imagination to predict that this new army could easily be turned against Israel at the proper time. If so, then the US will have been complicit in helping the Muslim coalition fulfill Ezekiel’s prophecy.
It’s important to remember that Ezekiel 38 calls for a sneak attack on Israel. 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, living without walls or gates” (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 do not appear on Ezekiel’s list of antagonists, although you’d expect them to be at or near the top. It would also explain how Israel could soon be living in a perceived state of safety as Ezekiel 38:11 requires. Currently there doesn’t seem to be any other way for the Israelis to think they’re living at peace with no threat on their borders. The resulting semblance of peace could be just enough to cause Israel to let down its guard, making it vulnerable to attack.
Another prerequisite for Ezekiel’s battle is clearly being met. Until recently, Israel really hasn’t had any wealth to speak of, but offshore 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 of natural gas. 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. Ever on guard, Israel has just ordered several more warships from Germany to help protect its offshore oil and gas platforms.
The removal of the US as Israel’s powerful ally is also necessary to pave the way for Ezekiel’s battle. I believe this is well underway. Because of recent experience, many in the Middle East, including Israel, no longer expect the US administration to follow through on its 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 struggles, 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, which we know as 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. Recent claims by ISIS predict major inroads into Spain and eastern Europe in the coming year, and current growth trends show that Islam will be the dominant religion in the UK within 10 years. Only France and Germany seem to be pushing back against the growth of Islam in their countries. Nevertheless, the prophecy clearly shows both divisions present until the Lord returns to set up His Kingdom, putting an end to Gentile Dominion forever, whether Islamic or not. (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 its goal 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. 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 an ongoing 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.
You can see this in real time with ISIS (Sunni) attacking Shiites in Iraq and Syria, and with Iran (Shiite) in league with the West against them. Also, some observers believe a major factor in the current oil price war is due to Saudi Arabia’s (Sunni) attempt to bring arch rival Iran (Shiite) to ruin. The fact that Russia, a friend of Iran’s and a major competitor of Saudi Arabia, is also on the economic ropes because of this price war is frosting on the cake for the Saudis. Saudi Arabia has massive oil reserves and can afford to undersell the market for years if necessary to destroy its enemies/competitors.
(It will be interesting to see how the US fares in all this. Right now we’re enjoying the lowest gasoline prices in years. But Saudi Arabia’s goal is to undercut America too, since our burgeoning shale oil production has made the US a major threat to Saudi dominance that has to be eliminated. US industry sources are predicting as many as 550 drilling rigs will be idled within the first quarter of 2015 since current market prices for oil are below US production costs. That’s about 25% of America’s rigs. The entire world economy could be further destabilized by this price war. The blessing of low prices at the gas pumps could soon become a curse.)
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 slow motion economic collapse of Europe, war in the Middle East, or the price of oil, the one solution most leaders agree on is the need for some form of coordinated world government. With the things that already threaten our 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.
But more has already been accomplished than most people think. For example, if you take a close look at the dimensions and capabilities of the new US embassy in Baghdad you will see how easily it could be prepared to house a world governmental headquarters. At 104 acres, it is the largest and most expensive embassy in the world, and is nearly as large as Vatican City. Babylon is only about an hour away by car.
In addition, one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces overlooks ancient Babylon and has been completely restored as a hotel and tourist destination. It could easily house the anti-Christ and his entourage. Finally, there are several large military installations nearby as well. In short, preparing Babylon to become the capitol of the world won’t take anywhere near as long as most people think.
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 said the big things to watch for in 2014 would be the actions of nation against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there’s no sign of a let up in 2015. All around the globe nations are either preparing for war or at war. In the Middle East, we could easily see the fulfillment of Psalm 83 and Isaiah 17.
In the Far East, China is building up its military capabilities. According to a recent US Department of Defense report, “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 these improvements. In addition to the ground forces, the PLA Navy, the PLA Air Force, the Second Artillery (China’s rocket forces), as well as space and cyber-espionage capabilities are all being expanded and upgraded.” In 2014 China launched its first aircraft carrier, nuclear armed submarines, and a stealth fighter aircraft. 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 millions of refugees and internally displaced people. Thousands of people have been slaughtered from a number of conflicts and civil wars on the African continent.
There will be big problems in the EU if they can’t stabilize their economy in 2015. 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 Europe’s failure to solve its economic problems.
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 has dropped to 46 million from its high of 48 million in 2012. (Much of the decline was due to several states adding work requirements to the qualification process, causing people to drop out.) Even so, two thirds of all children in the US now receive some kind of welfare assistance.
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.
Most experts have finally agreed that earthquakes have steadily become more frequent in recent years. They are now an everyday occurrence, averaging in excess of 3 earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or higher somewhere in the world every day. Some services are now routinely tracking volcanic eruptions as well, noting that their frequency is also increasing.
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 2015 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, having seen these things beginning to take place we 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 2015. 01-03-15.