From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. John 13:19
(Excerpt from the closing chapter in The Cost of Our Silence)
Three major things happen when we understand Bible prophecy better: Our faith is strengthened, our hope in Christ is encouraged by the fulfillment of prophecy, and we are more excited to tell others!
Did you realize the most dominant subject in the New Testament next to salvation is the second coming of Jesus Christ? His return is our hope.
To those who trust in Him and obey His commandments, God has promised a fulfillment to our hope in Christ and security in His presence for eternity. The entire Bible points to Jesus Christ, and prophecy should encourage us to dig deeper into the Word of God, marvel at its perfection, and trust its truth – particularly concerning what is yet to come.
According to scholars, there are 1,845 references to the return of Jesus Christ in the pages of the Bible. In fact, references to the second coming outnumber references to the first appearance of Jesus by an 8 to 1 margin! We easily get lost and overwhelmed by prophecies and their meaning until we take a closer, more concentrated look. At least one quarter of the Bible is prophecy (some suggest one third), so we must make a sincere effort to understand these Scriptures.
Jesus’ return is highlighted in seventeen Old Testament books, and within the twenty-seven New Testament books, there are 321 mentions of the second coming. This latter number equates to one out of every thirty verses in which the return of Christ is mentioned.
Prophecy indicates believers who are alive when He returns will be ushered into the kingdom of heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). All of the promises in the Old Testament to Israel will be fulfilled as well as the New Testament promises to believers, and Christ will reign as King over the whole earth for one thousand years. This is the end of history as we know it: The earth will be completely destroyed (2 Peter 3:10), and the universe imploded and replaced by a new earth and new heavens in which we will be with Him forever.
Jesus prophesied saying, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away (Luke 21:33). Jesus made this statement over 2,000 years ago, way before the printing press was invented, and today His words remain accurate, trustworthy, and indisputable. The Bible is the best-selling book of all time, and hundreds of millions of Bibles and portions of Scriptures are distributed every year worldwide.
It amazes me with all the evidence and Scripture proving the existence, deity, and truth of Jesus Christ that many still refuse to believe. One reason for this may be the fact His birth and earthly life had one purpose, but His return will have a very different purpose – the final judgment of all mankind…
The “God-breathed” sixty-six books in the Bible were written by forty different authors; men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21 NIV). These messengers of God came from diverse backgrounds, and Scriptures were written in three different languages over a period of 1,500 years on three different continents! There are no contradictions or inconsistencies in the Word of God, and over 25,000 archaeological finds support the fact that people, places, and events mentioned in the Bible are real and accurate. Skeptics who say they need more evidence simply do not want to believe – it is an act of the will.
What human being could have ever manufactured such an intricate plan – a masterpiece combining thousands of years of historical events, as well as prophecies, in perfect and specific detail? More importantly, what man could have created and insured the carrying out of such an elaborate story in advance, well before many of those written about were born, before nations were formed, and years before historical events had even taken place? Over a span of thousands of years, hundreds of prophecies were made by men living in different time periods and who had never met or communicated with one another!
The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting (Psalm 119:160).
FULFILLED BY JESUS CHRIST
In the events surrounding His birth, Jesus Christ – Emmanuel, “God with us” – fulfilled prophecies about the Messiah no other person has fulfilled. Could these events have been manipulated? As for details surrounding the crucifixion and death of Jesus, at least twenty-eight prophecies were fulfilled. Jesus Himself fulfilled more than 300 prophecies. What are the odds? For those who have an open mind, evidence produced by an honest investigation of the life and death of Christ should astound even the most intellectual skeptics and mathematicians.
In his book, Science Speaks: Scientific Proof of the Accuracy of Prophecy and the Bible, Professor Peter Stoner (1888 – 1980) calculated the probability of one man fulfilling a handful of Messianic prophecies. Stoner was Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena City College in California and Chairman of the Science Division at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. His research revealed the mathematical probability of one person fulfilling just eight of the prophecies was a mind-boggling one chance in 1017 (one, followed by 17 zeros)! The word impossible comes to mind.
The odds of one person fulfilling forty-eight prophecies equal 10 to the 157th power! Imagine the astronomical odds overcome as Jesus Christ successfully fulfilled hundreds of prophecies – which He has – and there are more to come when He returns.
God leaves nothing up to chance. Rather than provide a lengthy list here, let’s take a look at just a handful of key Bible prophecies about Jesus Christ fulfilled by Him:
- The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem of a virgin; He will be called Immanuel and live in Nazareth (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:23).
- He will be a prophet like Moses, enter Jerusalem triumphantly, riding on a donkey (Deuteronomy 18:15; Zechariah 9:9; John 12:12-19).
- He will be rejected by His own people and betrayed by one of His followers for thirty pieces of silver (Isaiah 53:1-3; John 1:11; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:14-16).
- The Messiah will be mocked, taunted, spit upon, severely beaten, and flogged (Psalm 22:7-8; Isaiah 50:6; 53:5).
- He will be tried and condemned to die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:14-16; John 19:15-16).
- His hands and side will be pierced; His garments will be divided by casting lots, but His bones will not be broken (Zechariah 12:10a; Psalm 22:16-18; 34:20; John 19:36).
- The Messiah will bear the sins of many and pray for those who kill Him (Isaiah 53:12b).
- He will suffer with sinners, die with criminals, and He will be buried with/by a rich man (Isaiah 53:12a; Matthew 27:38, 57-60).
- The Messiah will be raised from the dead (Psalm 16:10; 30:3; 1 Corinthians 15:4-8).
- He will make His enemies a footstool for His feet; He will be exalted and will sit at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 12:2; Acts 2:32-36; Hebrews 10:12-13).
…Why become more familiar with prophecy? If prophecies are inaccurate or wrong, the Bible would not be trustworthy. This, however, is not an issue nor has the Bible ever come close to being proved false. In rare cases of apparent inconsistencies, the problem always stems from our misunderstanding Scripture in context or our inability to properly interpret its meaning.
The earth today is filled with humanism, selfishness, violence, and every sin imaginable. Society is declining and practically all moral restraint has vanished. In the United States, violent crime has increased nearly 500 percent since the early 1960s, and interestingly enough, that was when God, the Bible, and prayer began to be eradicated from public schools. You tell me if there is any correlation.
Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all (Luke 17:26-27).
The implication here is people were living and carrying on as if nothing was wrong, completely ignoring their sin and rebellion against God and His laws. There was an increase of sin in the land as people lived for the moment with no concern about spiritual things or the future. We have the same mentality in America today, don’t we? Jesus predicted the increase of lawlessness would cause the love of some to grow cold, and false prophets would deceive many people (Matthew 24:11-12). Millions of people have gone hungry, millions live in poverty, and millions of lives have been aborted, as we have gone on with our lives while looking the other way.
…Today, one obvious sign similar to the days of Noah is that many people continue to ignore warnings from those preaching the truth of Scripture. Apostasy and deception are commonplace in many churches and denominations as religious leaders are departing from the truth. Tolerance is elevated above the exclusivity of Christ and His teachings, while experience-based religion is more popular than Bible-based Christianity. In this new age of deception, relevance is more important than repentance.
Another interesting point occurred when Jesus told the disciples the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. They asked Him when that would happen and what would be the sign of His return. The first thing He said was, See to it that no one misleads you (Matthew 24:4). Jesus immediately went on to explain some of the signs to come, such as wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, false teachers, and the persecution of Christians. We are seeing all of these things today, including nations fighting nations, all of which He described as the beginning of birth pangs (Matthew 24:8).
A new level of evil has arisen as people justify more sinful behavior, bringing us to new heights of godlessness. Persecution of the godly will increase, and evil men will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:12-13). Some believers have departed from the faith, and even Christians are being seduced by doctrines of demons. This is a wake-up call to the remnant!
Though many good churches exist in America and people are still being saved, it is only by the grace and mercy of God and the presence of active, committed believers, His true church, that the Holy Spirit’s presence and power is restraining more evil in our land. I certainly would not want to be around when the church is gone and Christians are raptured.
Believe it or not, with all the warnings from Scripture and the signs we are beginning to witness, people will still be surprised and caught off guard when Christ returns (1 Thessalonians 5:2-5).
You may have heard the story about Ruth Graham responding to Billy Graham after she read a draft of a book he was writing. She said to her husband, “Billy, if God doesn’t punish the United States of America, He’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!” Some sources indicate she made that statement in the mid-1960s, not long after the Bible and voluntary prayer to God were banned from government schools.
Another obvious sign of the end times is the increase and threat of deadly pestilence (Revelation 6:8) including plagues and diseases such as AIDS, Cancer, Ebola, Hantavirus, West Nile, Dengue fever, SARS, bird flu, and others…
THE RETURN OF THE CHRIST
There are several views among believers as to the timing of the rapture in relation to the great tribulation prophesied in Scripture. Let me first emphasize the most important thing is the fact of Jesus’ return! Two theories dominate: a pre-tribulation view and a post tribulation view. The church, meaning “believers in Jesus Christ,” will either be taken up to heaven prior to the tribulation (a view a majority support) or we will not be raptured until the very end of the tribulation period. The rapture and the second coming of Jesus Christ may well be a single event (pretrib) rather than events occurring at different times (post trib).
Keeping this subject in perspective, salvation is the priority, and we must preach the gospel to ensure as many people as possible will turn to Christ and be saved. While we’re told to beware of the Antichrist, Jesus exhorted His followers to watch for Him. If our Lord returns before the tribulation, praise God; we will miss the most terrible times ahead. If Jesus returns after the tribulation, praise God; we will be honored to suffer for the cause of Christ. The bottom line is, Scripture is full of promises that we can confidently look for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus (Titus 2:13).
According to Scripture, when Jesus returns, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east (Zechariah 14:4). So, when Jesus returns, we know from Scripture He will come from the east and will touch ground on the Mount of Olives. We can confirm this with the prophecy the angels spoke immediately after Jesus gave final instructions to His followers and ascended into Heaven, right before they all returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet. The angels said:
This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven (Acts 1:11-12).
But let’s not miss the fact that prior to His crucifixion, Jesus entered Jerusalem through this same Eastern Gate on Palm Sunday riding on a donkey (John 12:14). Written five centuries before the birth of Christ, the prophet Daniel predicted this exact event would take place. He also gave us the very date the Messiah would enter Jerusalem as King (Daniel 9:25), allowing people to worship Him publicly for the first time (John 12:13-15).
…At the return of Jesus Christ, He will enter the city through the now cemented and sealed Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44:1-3; Nehemiah 3:29). This significant city gate is one of eight gates to Jerusalem and was walled up by Muslim conquerors in the 16th century. Just as the Bible teaches, the Eastern Gate to the city remains closed and will be sealed until the Messiah returns. The glory of the Lord will come by way of the gate facing toward the east (Ezekiel 43:4). The Eastern Gate is the only one that has been shut for 500 years.
This is both interesting and significant due to the fact the city walls and gates in Jerusalem have been torn down and rebuilt more than once. And when they were rebuilt, it was always on the same spots. The oldest city gate, the Eastern Gate was the only one not to be rebuilt by Suleiman the Magnificent around AD 1540. In addition, some of the massive stones in the wall were identified as masonry from the 6th Century BC, which is during the time the prophet Nehemiah rebuilt the city walls and gates.
*Read much more in Part 2 of this book excerpt which touches on Revelation, Israel, Jerusalem, and Islam.