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Shortly before His crucifixion and resurrection Jesus Christ was asked: "When will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3). He responded with a description of conditions and events that would lead up to His second coming.
In Matthew 24:22, describing world conditions prior to His second coming, Jesus said that "if that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God's chosen it will be cut short."
Humanity has only had the capability for self-annihilation since the United States and Soviet Union developed and stockpiled hydrogen bombs. There are now many more nations that have nuclear capability, making it more likely someone will use this deadly force. The good news is that Christians have an assurance that Jesus Christ will intervene to save mankind from annihilation.
Luke 21 is a parallel chapter to Matthew 24 showing Jerusalem will be the central focus of political and military upheavals immediately preceding Christ’s return: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near" (Luke 21:20).
The prophet Daniel describes the daily sacrifices at the temple being cut off just before Christ’s return (Daniel 12:11, also Daniel 12:1-13). This event had a forerunner in the temple defilement under Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C. but Jesus Christ confirmed there would also be a future fulfillment preceding His return (compare Daniel 11:31 with Matthew 24:15).
For this prophecy to be fulfilled sacrifices must be reinstituted in Jerusalem, requiring Jewish rule over the city. One hundred years ago such developments were hard to imagine because no independent Jewish political entity existed in the Middle East until the modern nation of Israel was established in 1948.
Daniel 11 mentions the kings of the North and South, ruling two regions north and south of the Holy Land.
God revealed to Daniel that after Babylon, Persia would dominate, followed by the rise of Greece centered on the exploits of Alexander the Great, "... suddenly a male goat came from the west, across the surface of the whole earth, without touching the ground; and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes" (Daniel 8:5).
The "notable horn" was Alexander the Great, who conquered the known world with incredible speed. Even his unexpected death in 323 B.C. was alluded to in the prophecy: "The male goat grew very great; but when he became strong, the large horn was broken, and in place of it four notable ones came up toward the four winds of heaven" (Daniel 8:8).
When Alexander died, his empire was eventually divided between four of his generals. Two of these established dynasties would have a profound effect on the Jewish people. These two dynasties were the descendants of Seleucus, who ruled a vast empire from Antioch in Syria, north of Jerusalem, and Ptolemy, who ruled Egypt from Alexandria.
Then the prophecy in Daniel 11 jumps to the end time: "At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind… and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land [the Holy Land], and many countries shall be overthrown…" (Daniel 11:40-41).
This North-South conflict describes a clash between the leader of a soon-coming European superpower—a revived Roman Empire (successor to Seleucid Syrian rule)—and a leader who is the successor to the Ptolemaic rule of Egypt, which is now part of the Islamic world. (To learn more, request or download our free booklet The Middle East in Bible Prophecy.)
In Daniel chapters 2 and 7 we see further prophecies about the four great gentile empires that would arise from the time of Daniel until the establishment of the Kingdom of God. After Greece came the Roman Empire. This empire was to have "ten horns" and would continue in some form until Christ's return (Daniel 7:7-9).
As we saw in the previous section, horns represent leaders or governments, and these 10 horns symbolize 10 attempts to restore the Roman Empire that take place after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in A.D. 476. Revelation 17 details a final, future attempt to be made shortly before Christ’s return, by "ten kings who…receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast" (Revelation 17:12-13). They will also "make war with the Lamb [Jesus Christ], and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings" (Revelation 17:14).
Previous attempts to forge a united European empire, from Justinian in the sixth century through Charlemagne, Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler, all involved force. The final resurrection of the Roman Empire referred to in Revelation 17 suggests this will be a voluntary union, in which the 10 rulers will give their authority to a single leader. Scripture refers to both this individual and the new superpower he leads as "the beast"—acknowledging it as the continuation of the four gentile empires prophesied in Daniel.
It is now possible for this prophecy to be fulfilled. In 1957 the Treaty of Rome was signed by six European nations, forming the European Economic Community, which grew into the European Union (EU). Out of these nations will likely come the 10 nations or 10 leaders that form the final resurrection of the Roman Empire.
It's been almost 3,000 years since the kingdom of Israel split in two. Ten of the twelve tribes rebelled against King Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon and grandson of King David. Dominant among these tribes were to be the descendants of Jacob's son, Joseph, through his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. They were prophesied by Jacob to be the chief nations of the world in the last days (Genesis 49:1 and 22-26; compare Deuteronomy 33:13-17).
After the northern tribes of Israel fell to Assyria and were deported to the northern parts of their empire, they later migrated northwest across Europe. References to "Israel" in end-time prophecy often refer to the United States or the English-speaking countries of the British Empire or both. (For much more detail, download or request our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.) The kingdom of Judah fell to Babylon more than a century after Israel's deportation, and its people, the Jews, were not lost to history like the northern ten tribes.
Hosea 5 contains a prophecy mentioning Israel, Ephraim and Judah: "... therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them… they shall go to seek the Lord, but…He has withdrawn Himself from them. They have dealt treacherously with the Lord, for they have begotten pagan children. Now a New Moon shall devour them and their heritage" (Hosea 5:5-7). A new moon "devouring" them would seem to mean that Israel, Ephraim and Judah, will all fall within one month.
This prophecy was not fulfilled in ancient times, and could not have been fulfilled until after the rise of Britain and the United States as world powers in the 19th century. Just before Christ’s return it appears they will fall together—within one month of each other.
After listing a number of conditions to occur shortly before His return Jesus tells his disciples "…this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:14).
The gospel is the good news of the coming Kingdom of God and could not be preached around the world without freedom of religion and the technological advances of television, radio and other means of mass communication largely developed after World War II. Some nations still do not allow freedom of religion. China, with one quarter of the world's people, does not, as well as many Islamic nations, but the Internet has changed everything. It is much harder for governments to control.
Only with the development of rapid electronic communications do the events described in Revelation 11 become possible. People around the world will see the fate of God's two witnesses, who will give God's final warning to the world during the 3 1/2 years leading up to Christ's return.
"And...my two witnesses…will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days…when they finish their testimony, the beast…will make war against them…and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city…where also our Lord was crucified…nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days... And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them…" (Revelation 11:3, 7-10).
It would not have been possible for the world to see the dead bodies of the two witnesses for 3 1⁄2 days in Jerusalem before the development of satellite television, portable communications devices and the Internet.
It's both sobering and encouraging to think we are moving closer and closer to the most important event in the history of mankind – the return of Jesus Christ, who tells His followers in Luke 21:28, "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."
The Good News Magazine (Jan-Feb 2008)