Many Christians today can be eschatologically myopic. This is particularly true for many of us who live comfortably in the West, working comfortable jobs and making enough money to enjoy a fairly comfortable living while Christians in other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Asia where Islam is the dominant religion, live under the constant threat of persecution and even death simply because of the very fact that they are Christian. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, and Peter F. Crossing in their 2009 report in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Vol. 33, No. 1: 32) estimate that approximately 176,000 Christians were martyred between mid-2008 to mid-2009. This, according to the authors, compares to 160,000 martyrs in mid-2000 and 34,400 at the beginning of the 20th century . And it’s getting worse.
I believe that we are in the last of the last days and are being plunged into a time that Christ described as “great tribulation” in Matthew 24. I do not believe, however, in a seven-year-tribulation nor do I believe that we, at any imminent moment, will be whisked away in a secret rapture to avoid any and all persecution that may be coming to our shores, as much as I would love for that to be the case (read here to find out where Paul and John place the rapture of the Church in Scripture, and here to find out what the Church is according to Jesus).
As the end of the age approaches, the picture of radical Islam and its role in the Last Days is becoming increasingly clear (cf. Daniel 12:4), and just as our Christian brothers and sisters on the other side of the world are today being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, shot, blown up and beheaded for the faith of Jesus, I believe that we, too, will continue to witness all that is taking place. As such, I hereby present to you a commentary on Revelation 13 for your consideration that I believe reveals to us the time in which we are now living today, and the time that will soon be upon us.
Revelation 7:1-4, “After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.’ And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed …”
Many of us have been taught that the 144,000 of Revelation 7 were literally all Jewish virgin men — and exactly 12,000 each from the 12 tribes of Israel — that would “go through the tribulation” in an effort to evangelize an untold number of lost souls to the saving knowledge of Christ after a pre-trib rapture of Christians, and that they would do all of this without the guidance, giftings, empowerment and conviction power of the Holy Spirit (cf John 15:26; 16:8-11). That was pretty much the story I had been given growing up, sometimes with slight variations of the narrative depending on who was teaching or preaching at the time. But have you ever wondered how on earth they could find salvation if they were not saved at the time of a “pre-trib rapture” to be whisked away when, according to many of these same teachers, the Holy Spirit — the One who convicts the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8-11) — would also be removed from the earth along with all Christians? Well, hold your breath brothers and sisters because some of you may be surprised to hear this — it’s wrong. Oh, it’s all in the text, but many of us haven’t read what’s all in the text. Read more…
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
And there it is. Two of the — if not the — most popular “rapture” passages in the entire Bible. Yet when many Christians read about the timing of the “rapture” at the “last trump” they are either unaware, or because of an already preconceived assumption on this very subject, refuse to even consider if the “last trumpet” of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is a direct reference to the 7th and last trumpet that John describes in the 10th chapter of Revelation. But why? Admittedly, even I was not aware of the significance of Revelation 10 for many years, but am now more than convinced that we can corroborate through the context of text that this is indeed the last trumpet that the Apostle Paul wrote about to the church in Corinth.
For a moment, if you will, toss aside any preconceptions you may have on the timing of the rapture and approach the text as if it were for the first time. Approach it with the heart of a Berean so that together we may search the Scriptures. Read more…
Revelation 13:16-17, “He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.”
The most popular view today regarding the Mark of the Beast in Revelation 13 is that it is a literal mark physically placed in the forehead or right hand of those who worship Antichrist. Many teachers of Biblical eschatology will even refer to modern 21st century technology and point to some type of tattoo or implantable microchip under the skin when attempting to explain the mark. But why? What is in the text that leads many to believe that this mark must be physical when, after all, virtually every one of us would agree that while the book of Revelation speaks about the dragon, the Beast, the “Whore of Babylon” or the mark of Christ upon the elect etc. that these descriptions are not referring to a literal dragon, a literal animal, a literal prostitute or a literal seal of Christ? This is obviously figurative language pointing to something completely different. On the other hand, so to speak, is there anything from Scripture to indicate for us that this mark need not be a physical mark at all, but could instead be something else entirely?
After careful consideration, I believe that the Mark of the Beast is very likely a spiritual mark just as the mark of Christ upon the elect is spiritual. Since many will resist the suggestion that a figurative Beast will also have a figurative mark, despite the fact that there is nothing in the text stating that the Mark of the Beast must be physical, it is important to rightly divide the Word of God and study, from the whole of Scripture, the significance of the hand and head and how it often relates to man’s condition in the Biblical text. Read more…
Many Christians today believe that when Antichrist is revealed the world will suddenly experience some form of global governance virtually overnight, controlled by a man who will be worshiped as God himself. Although there are a few verses in Scripture that may appear to give credence to the idea that the entire earth will be overcome by the last-days Antichrist at first glance, the whole of Scripture supports neither the idea of a “One World Government” (OWG) ruled by Antichrist, nor the idea of an end-of-days leader who controls literally every last nation on the earth.
Many popular teachers of Biblical eschatology who support the idea of a OWG and Antichrist who controls the political and religious dictates of all the nations of the world will agree, at the very least, that the last portion of Daniel 11 from verses 36 and beyond all refer to the final years leading up to the Second Coming of Christ. What they fail to consider, however, are the following questions that should be obvious to anyone who holds to both of these positions: Read more…