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Monday, November 22, 2010

Is this the end of the world? Part 8

In conclusion to part 7 I wrote: “The above view is based upon the interpretation that the events of Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation are sequential not concurrent. They happen one after the other, not simultaneously. For instance, the events of the seven trumpets not do not transpire concurrently or before the events of the seven seals, and likewise the events of the sevens vials do not transpire before the events of the seven trumpets. This is the reason why I believe that the days of the last generation will span at least 30 years, possibly a time period of ten years each will pass during each of the three phases before all these things will be fulfilled. Next I will detail the events that I expect to occur over the course of next few years, the events that signify the ‘beginning of sorrows’ and the end of the world.”
The beginning of sorrows as the Riders of the Apocalypse begin to ride
  • Matthew 24:7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
  • Revelation 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
The beginning of the end of the world was classified by Jesus as ‘the beginning of sorrows’. In verse 6 of Matthew 24 Jesus taught that before the end began there would be a proliferation of many people coming His Name claiming that they were the messiah. And that we would hear of wars and rumors of war but that these signs, though indicative of the end, would not yet be the beginning of the end. We truly live in deceptive times where false messiahs and false christs lurk behind very corner, where there is no shortage of false doctrines and teachings showing a (false) path of salvation with promises of eternal life. Even so – called ‘Christian’ churches are filled with strange doctrines and other gospels besides the one first revealed by the Lord Jesus Himself and spread throughout the world by His apostles and prophets. There are also many rumors of wars as well as actual wars that are going on in various parts of the world. I believe that Jesus’ reference to wars was not just to minor wars such as that between some small African nations, devastating as they are for the locals, but rather to major wars that will involve world powers such as the USA, Russia, China, India and other well known nations such as Iran, Pakistan and the Koreas. It would thus appear that we now live in the days just before the days of the ‘beginning of sorrows’, the beginning of which would indicate that the days of the last generation will have arrived, and that the world will end no later than 40 years from the time of that beginning.
The End of the World – Phase 1: Opening of the Seven Seals
The first phase of the end of the world will commence with the fulfillment of events prophesied in Matthew 24:7 and in Revelation 6 with the opening of the seven seals. These events that will probably last several years may broadly be divided into the following major categories and minor sub categories:
Riders of the Apocalypse: The major events that will transpire during the opening of the first four seals phase will bring utter destruction to many parts of the world as the four riders begin to ride when the first four seals are opened. As an aside, I refrain from calling these ‘Riders’ ‘Horsemen’ because there is no indication in the Bible that they are ‘Men’; as a matter of fact, the rider of the Pale horse is ‘Death’, accompanied by ‘Hell’, which may in now wise be interpreted as ‘Men’. By the time the last rider riding the pale horse has run his course, a quarter of the earth’s population will have perished, and much devastation will have been wrought that will leave many areas of the earth unrecognizable from their present day form. It is also a near certainty that many parts of the world will escape relatively unscathed, as happened during WWII, but their reprieve will be short lived for according to Matthew 24:22, Revelation 3:10 and other scriptures, tribulation must come upon the whole world, upon all that dwell on the Earth. By comparing Matthew 24:7 to Revelation 6:1-8, we can draw a pretty accurate picture of what to expect in this first phase and also how to be certain that those days will actually be the days of the ‘beginning of sorrows’, the days of the last generation. Jesus admonished and warned His disciples to be ready to endure unto the end; but if we know not where we stand on the end times timetable nor when the end might come, how will know how long we have to endure? Expecting the end to come sooner than it will in reality will be a major blow to the faith of many people, whose love will then wax cold because the end did not come as fast as they expected that it would. So I repeat once again that the ‘beginning of sorrows’ is only the beginning of the end, the middle and the last stage will yet be in the future even after a fourth of the earth’s population will have perished and many areas of the earth will lie in utter ruins.  
The following four major signs coming to pass simultaneously will herald the beginning of the end, and we must watch for these signs prayerfully. Let us take a close look at Matthew 24:7:
·         For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
·         and there shall be famines,
·         and pestilences,
·         and earthquakes,
·         in divers places.

The prophesied events that constitute the ‘beginning of sorrows’ may be divided into four categories, each one of them resulting in catastrophic destruction and loss of life in the tens of millions; the final death toll by the end of the ‘beginning of sorrows’ will be close to two billion people. Many people have confused past natural disasters, wars, and pandemics as fulfillment of the end of the world Biblical prophesies. Not until we witness the loss of life on this scale in a time period of ten years or even less can anyone confidently claim that this is the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. This series of articles attempts to provide clear guidelines as to what or what does not constitute fulfillment of ‘end of the world’ Biblical prophecies, so that we all as believers have a fairly good idea of where we stand on the end of the world timetable. When the fulfillment of Biblical prophesies actually occurs, it will be the scale of destruction that will tell us that what we will be witnessing will be the fulfillment of prophecy. It is true that there is nothing new about war or disease or natural disasters but the end of the world events will be on a whole different scale; although it may sound like a cliché, it is only when we see destruction and loss of life on a ‘Biblical scale’ that it may safely be concluded that the four riders have ridden and the seals have been opened, and therefore there will be less than 40 years before it is all over, and our Lord Jesus returns to Earth as the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. The four major categories of the ‘beginning of sorrows’ phase are as follows:
1.       Warfare
2.       Famines
3.       Pestilences (highly infectious and fatal diseases)
4.       Earthquakes and other natural disasters

Out of the above four categories, the Lord Jesus singled out warfare as a category separate from the other three. We know this to be the case because ‘nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom’ is a separate clause whereas famines, pestilences and earthquakes are categorized together. One reason for this differentiation might be that warfare brings destruction by the hand of man whereas the other three categories are believed to be independent of the power of man. The opening of the first and second seal in Revelation 6 also relate to conflict and warfare, so it would appear that all out war will be centre stage during this phase even though parts of the world will be simultaneously devastated by famines, pandemics and natural disasters, primarily earthquakes. Though it may sound morbid what we need to watch for is breaking out of major conflicts and wars that will result in loss of life in the tens of millions, and at the same time parts of the earth being ravaged by famines killing millions, one or more major pandemics proving to be fatal for millions more, and yet millions more being destroyed through earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis etc. Then and only then may we confidently say that the end of the world will be upon us, and there would be no doubt left that we will be living in the days of the last generation.
As we look at phases 2 and 3, the blowing of the trumpets, and the pouring out of the vials, it will become very clear that the first phase is very different from the two phases that follow. One major distinction is that though there will be catastrophic destruction on an almost unprecedented scale in all phases, it is the methodology of the destruction that will be very different. For example, the phase of cosmic destruction, such as by bombardment of the earth by space based projectiles does not happen in phase 1, warfare is between men in phase 1 whereas in phase 2 it would appear that a whole army of ‘non-human’ creatures will invade the planet. In that respect the first phase may be termed the ‘Natural’ phase where outside of the scale of destruction, not much will be witnessed on earth that has not been seen before on a smaller scale. Wars between men, infectious diseases, natural disasters and famines have all been seen many times in history, so there will nothing new in that respect. So we can fully expect ‘experts’ on CNN, National Geographic channel etc. trying to explain everything that will be going on as natural processes that happen every so often naturally. Even as judgment upon man will be poured out in force, few will look upon that which will be happening as judgment from God. How long phase 1 will last is impossible to determine, at least at present, but I would guess that it will last a minimum of seven years. The number seven is a prominent number in the Bible but especially in the book of Revelation, and therefore it would be reasonable to surmise that the major events of the three major phases would last roughly this period of time.
It is also important to note that the ‘beginning of sorrows’ as prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24:7-8 coincides with the opening of the first four seals only, and not the last three. The opening of the fifth seal marks the removal of the first of the three groups of martyrs, those who will be faithful unto death, from earth to Heaven. This will be a large group of people who will lose their lives during the time of the beginning of sorrows. At this time it becomes important to understand that the judgment of God comes both upon the righteous and the unrighteous. For instance, when God judged Sodom, judgment came upon Lot as well but his was not a judgment of condemnation but rather of acquittal. When a person goes to trial, there are two possible outcomes, guilty or not guilty. Those judged not guilty are made free whereas the guilty are sentenced. So in the case of Lot, he was judged not guilty and was therefore did not fall victim to the fiery sentence that fell upon Sodom. As per the following scriptures from the book of the prophet Isaiah, death is not always a judgment of condemnation but in the case of the righteous, it is liberation, escape from the sentence that will befall the wicked as judgment comes upon man.
  • Isaiah 57: 1 The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come. 2 He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness.
Now let’s take a look at the following scripture from Revelation 6.
  • Revelation 6:8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
By the time the pale horse rider finishes riding a full quarter of the earth’s population will have perished. It is reasonable that not all of those who perish will be wicked evildoers but some righteous too will perish. After all Jesus did tell us that ‘they’ (referring to the wicked) will kill some of the righteous (Matthew 24:9). Some may question why would God let such things happen to those believe and have faith in him? The answer is to be found in the above quoted scriptures from Isaiah. For believers death of the body is not a catastrophe, rather it is a liberation into immortality. As the apostle Paul stated, it is far better, FAR BETTER, to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (Philippians 1:23). Therefore bodily death for believers is not something to be feared but to be looked upon as an inevitable step in the process of the completion of our promised redemption; from mortality into immortality, from corruption into incorruption. By allowing certain group of believers in the days of the last generation to be tested even to the point of having to lay down their lives, God will deliver them from this present evil world into His eternal Kingdom, and will richly reward their faith in the age to come. The glory that will be revealed in them will far outweigh the pain of all trials and tribulations that they might be required to endure in this life.
  • Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
From a believer’s perspective, this present body is dead already, so why not offer it up as a testimony of faith, why not be a witness for Christ Jesus, a witness that will help lead others also to Christ. When friends, family members, and even strangers witness such faith, will it not help lead, at least some of them to embrace the same faith and become partakers of eternal salvation? I think it is a good trade off; let them kill the body, for they cannot kill the soul, be a powerful witness for God and Jesus Christ, and be rewarded with eternal riches that eye has not seen, nor ear heard of, the presently unknown things that God has prepared for those who love Him. So just because some people will be required to be faithful unto death does not mean that God has abandoned them, rather God will be honoring them by giving them the opportunity to test their faith and at the same time move on to a place where neither death nor evil can ever touch them again. From a believer’s perspective this is a WIN – WIN situation. As the apostle Paul wrote, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Martyrdom, which will come to three groups of believers during the days of the end of the world, is not a sign of failure on God’s part but rather an opportunity for believers to claim their eternal inheritance and escape the wrath that will be poured out upon the earth in those days. God will deliver on His promise to keep and protect those that are faithful, from the wrath to come, to escape all these things that shall come to pass, but the means that He will use is through the death of this mortal body (which has to die someday anyway), not through a so – called rapture. It would be remiss on God’s part were He to prevent one small group of people to not have to suffer the very things that He Himself suffered, and the things that His prophets and apostles have had to endure throughout history.
Two of the three groups of martyrs follow each other in quick succession between the opening of the fifth and the seventh seal, the third group however comes much later, after the revealing of the antichrist beast, and the introduction of the mark of the beast. What I gather from the fact that during the very long phase of the blowing of the seven trumpets there are no group of believers that are taken up to Heaven, in other words groups of believers that are martyred, this would seem to indicate that the only believers that will be left upon earth for a period of time will be the 144,000 that are sealed between the opening of the sixth and seventh seals. However this does not mean that there will be only 144,000 believers in total for the remainder of the days of the last generation, the time period that will see the blowing of the seven trumpets, the pouring out of the seven vials, and all the other events that will yet need to come to pass before the end comes. Subsequent to the events that accompany the opening of the seven seals and the blowing of the first six trumpets, the two witnesses appear and testify for a period of three and a half years. It is their preaching of the gospel to the whole world, to all nations that will birth another group of believers that will stand up to the antichrist beast and will choose death rather than take the mark of the beast. I will expound more on the two witnesses and their testimony in later segments but it stands to reason that most if not all believers that are alive when the ‘beginning of sorrows’ overtakes the world will be taken out of this world before the day of God’s wrath, before the day of vengeance comes upon this world. Though the world, even believers, experience God’s judgment till the opening of the first six seals, it is only after the sixth seal is opened that the Bible declares that the great day of God’s wrath arrives. True to His Word that cannot pass away, though the Heaven and the Earth pass away, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will save those who endure from the wrath to come. The righteous indeed are taken away from the evil of the days of the seven trumpets and the events that follow.
The timing of the martyrdom of the first two groups of believers is either during the opening of the first four seals, the time of the ‘beginning of sorrows’, or immediately thereafter. It is my view that the first group is martyred during the time of the ‘beginning of sorrows’, and the second group follows shortly thereafter in the time between the opening of the sixth and the seventh seal. However there can be no doubt that these believers arrive in Heaven as martyrs; let’s take a close look at the following scripture:
Revelation 6:9 And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
I have heard the above scriptures quoted as evidence for the rapture but a careful parsing of these verses of scriptures leaves no doubt that this particular group of believers were killed not translated into Heaven as Elijah was translated. Even the use of the word ‘ALTAR’ suggests a sacrificial offering to God; these believers truly offered their bodies a living sacrifice, which is how their souls came to be found under the altar in Heaven. The Bible states that they were killed and that the second group that would follow them would also be killed as they were killed. How this can be quoted as evidence for the rapture is truly beyond me; please read the articles on the rapture on my website to gain a better understanding of this false and pernicious doctrine. People who profess to be Christians ought to have no fear of the death of the body but they ought to be terrified of the prospect of the death of the soul. They ought not to fear men or the devil that can kill the body but have no power over the soul, they ought to fear God who alone is the Judge that will determine whose soul lives and whose soul dies. Though Hollywood promotes the false idea that people can sell their soul to the devil, meaning he has power over their soul, this is a false teaching. God the Father and The Son of God, Christ Jesus alone have the power over the soul to save or to condemn. But then it is not farfetched to expect the devil to claim to have powers that he does not have, to claim to have authorities that have not been given to him by God.
  • Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
For the Christian, death simply means stepping out of this body to go to a much better and safer place. Now just think what a powerful testimony it would be for those who know us to witness us laying down our bodily lives without fear because of our faith in the promise of God, for our hope of a better resurrection. We give up our bodies for eternal resurrection and also help those weak in faith, and those we love that do not yet believe, come to the knowledge of salvation through Jesus Christ because we loved not our lives unto the death! As I previously stated, this is a WIN – WIN situation, and because they endured, they withstood, God will give them a part in the first resurrection, they will reign with Christ for a thousand years right here on Earth, and this special privilege will not even be available to all who will ultimately be a part of the resurrection of life. If you want a part in that first resurrection, so that the second death has no power over you, then be ready to lay your head on the chopping block as you surely will be required to do in the not too distant future. And quit worrying about the antichrist and the mark of the beast; in all likelihood you will not be around to see that day, the test of your faith will come much sooner than that time.
  • Revelation 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
The question of the identity of the 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7 is a controversial one; I have my understanding of this subject and have written upon it in the past. Please read my article on the identity of the 144,000 to gain a better perspective of who the Bible teaches this exceptional group might be (Who are the 144,000?).
In conclusion to this segment on Phase 1 of the end of the world, I would like to summarize as follows:
  • The Beginning of sorrows is a major part of the first phase, the phase of the opening of the seven seals. It will be the period of time that will see the first four seals opened, the time of the Riders of the Apocalypse. These riders signify warfare, famine, pestilence and earthquakes. As written in previous segments, at the very least the current worldwide economic crisis will work towards fulfilling the political aspects of prophecy, meaning it will bring about major warfare.
  • During this phase, at least two groups of believers will be given the opportunity to lay down their lives as a testimony of their faith for which their reward will far outweigh their suffering. The first group will most likely fall victim during the time of the beginning of sorrows, the time of the opening of the first four seals. The second group will follow in the time period between the opening of the sixth and the seventh seals.
  • The group of 144,000 ‘firstfruits’ will be sealed after the opening of the sixth seal. I have not written in this segment on the opening of the sixth seal which heralds a transition from judgment to wrath, from the ‘Natural’ phase of the end of the world to the ‘Supernatural’ phases. I will do so in the next segment when discussing the second phase of the end, the blowing of the seven trumpets.
  • How long the events of the first phase will last is a matter of conjecture but so much has to happen during this time that I would not be surprised if it lasts 10 years or so. I speculate that the ‘beginning of sorrows’ will commence around the beginning of 2013, therefore the first phase of the end may last the rest of this decade into the early part of the next decade. All believers alive today will be required to endure at least till the end of the ‘beginning of sorrows’, the time period of warfare, famines, disease, and natural disasters that will destroy a a quarter of the present population of the earth. I do not believe most of us believers will make it alive to see the beginning of the second. And let us be thankful for that to God our Father, and to our Lord Jesus, that as promised He will have accounted us worthy to escape the rest of the things that will surely come to pass in the years ahead.
To be continued…


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