So You Want to Know?
I'll assume that I don't know your status, but I'm glad you're reading this. Don't stop. What you are about to read is able to set you free no matter where you are right now, but it depends what you decide to do once you've taken it all in. So here goes. That truly is the bottom line of God's love for us of course. He gave us free will, even to reject Him. That's the essence of love - it doesn't force you into anything. But we do have to live with the consequences of our choices and how we have exercised our freewill. The nice thing though is that you can change the course of your life at any time by making new decisions.
Jesus Himself said that "you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free".(1) You may have the problem that you don't believe in Jesus so how can you believe what He said. Well, the fact that you're reading this means you are searching because you realized that there's an emptiness within or that there are things you don't know or haven't taken serious. I'll bet that by the end of this letter you will be ready to receive the truth about Jesus Christ. Why am I so confident? Because He Himself has put the truth within you(2), and as you read I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal God's plans and purposes to and for you. After all He loves you enough to have died for you!(3)
What is truth, and what does it mean to be set free? Jesus said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.(4) You know that if all you got was food, you'd be dissatisfied. Why? Because there's more to you than just flesh. You need relationships too. Truth is, we were created in God's image.(5) He is spirit and so are we. Denying that has dire implications for your future. We live by the words of God. The Bible says that the word of God is truth.(6) We're talking absolute truth here. This means that the words of God are what set us free. The word of God says that Jesus came to set the captives free.(7) It also says that Jesus is the word, and that the word became flesh and dwelt among us.(8) Jesus therefore sets us free. But free from what?
God's plans are not limited to this world. That's why He sent His son Jesus. It's a plan of salvation for a time when the world as we know it will cease. And the world is characterized by sin. Jesus will set us free from sin and reconcile us to the presence of God. He didn't say that when you accepted Him as Lord and Saviour that He would take you out of this world, but He did say that He was coming back for all those who believe and love Him. That's called the rapture, and in concept it is well outlined in the Bible.(9) Christians don't dispute the rapture, they just don't agree to the timing of the rapture, but we'll come to that later. Lets focus on salvation first. And yes YOU can get saved, even if the rapture has already taken place!
God's word says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (God), AND, you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead that you will be saved.(10) The day will come when we individually appear before the judgement throne of God.(11) Salvation is for such a time, but is acquired beforehand. Salvation secures, for us, the mercy of God, which triumphs over judgement(12), and instead of being eternally separated from our creator, we are given robes of righteousness(13) and an eternal place in the kingdom of Heaven.(14) Your chance is now! At the end of this article is a prayer that will lead you to salvation. Refer to it any time you feel the desire to receive Christ, and let the truth set you free.
Even as I write in this month of September 2000, we are living in end times. Jesus said that when we see the buds on the fig tree, we know that summer is near.(15) Likewise, when we see the signs He spoke of in Matthew 24(16), we will know that the end is near. I want to draw your attention to this critical period in the history of humankind called end times. What is it? When will it be? How will I know, and what does it mean for my life and future?
What is meant by "end times"?
"End times" or the "End of the Age" refers to the end of the world as we know it, culminating with the judgement of humans by God. Remember that Jesus was God who came in the flesh and dwelt among us.(17) He, therefore, taught as one who had authority.(18) He taught with authenticity. He knew what was to come. In Matthew's Gospel Jesus was asked about the end of the age:
Matthew 24:3 As he [Jesus] was sitting on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately and said, "Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?" [All scripture quotes are from the New English Translation (NET), available at http://www.bible.org/netbible/index.htm]
His disciples wanted to know when the end would come, and what signs would be indicators that the end was near. There's an important point to take note of in this verse however. The disciples made a connection between the end of the age and the second coming of Jesus. The signs would come first, but Jesus would return at the end of the age.
When will the end come?
Jesus deliberated as He answered the disciples's question. We see that He takes 41 verses in Matthew to tell them what will happen. It was obviously important for them, and us, to know. Even though Jesus does spend time on the detail of the answer however, what He taught that day was a summary of the vision He reveals to John (and us) in the book of Revelation. But first lets see what He said in Matthew:
Matthew 24:4 Jesus answered them, "Watch out that no one misleads you. 24:5 For many will come in my name, saying, "I am the Christ," and they will mislead many.
Remember, Jesus is describing the end of the age and its signs. Before anything else, He warns us to watch out. We should be on guard against deception, and particularly concerning our belief of who Jesus Christ is. Remember, He is the Son of God(19), who was crucified, dead and buried, but was raised to life again,(20) and is now where? In Heaven with the Father.(21) Another thing that is clear is that many will be mislead, so in end times we can expect to see large numbers of people following falsehoods.
Matthew 24:6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Make sure that you are not alarmed, for this must happen, but the end is still to come. 24:7 For nation will rise up in arms against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 24:8 All these things are the beginning of birthpangs.
These are signs of the beginning of the end of the age! Wars, famines and earthquakes are the "buds" on the fig tree that tell us summer is near.
Matthew 24:9 "Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. You will be hated by all the nations because of my name. 24:10 Then many will be led into sin, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 24:11 And many false prophets will appear and deceive many, 24:12 and because lawlessness will increase so much, the love of many will grow cold. 24:13 But the person who endures to the end will be saved. 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole inhabited earth as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
What follows is the abundance of sin and absence of love in society. False peace and love will abound and lawlessness will mark the day.(22) In this atmosphere, Christians will be persecuted to the point of death. Once again a warning. Endure to the end! This means that we are to endure in our faith as Christians, because that in itself will become a difficult test of genuine belief. But the Gospel will be preached globally. Many will be martyred, but the preaching of God's Word will ensure that no-one has an excuse for not believing in the Lord Jesus.
Have you recognized any of these signs in the world you live in? Sure you have, but you may be asking "Wars, famines, natural disasters and persecution have been happening for decades, even centuries, so how do I know that these scriptures apply to today?" To answer that we have to go to the book of Daniel, even Jesus, in the next verse of Matthew 24 refers to Daniel:
Matthew 24:15 "So when you see 'the abomination of desolation'--spoken about by Daniel the prophet--standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 24:16 then those in Judea must flee to the mountains. 24:17 The one on the roof must not come down to take anything out of his house, 24:18 and the one in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 24:19 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 24:20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 24:21 For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen.
Daniel 9:24 "Seventy weeks have been determined
concerning your people and your holy city
to finish the transgression,
to bring sin to completion,
to atone for iniquity,
to bring in everlasting righteousness,
to seal up the prophetic vision,
and to anoint a most holy place.
9:25 So know and understand:
from the going forth of the message to return and build
Jerusalem until the anointed one, the prince,
there are seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.
It will again be built, with plaza and moat,
but in distressful times.
9:26 Now after the sixty-two weeks,
the anointed one will be cut off and have nothing.
As for the city and the sanctuary,
the people of the coming prince will destroy them.
But his end will come speedily like a flood,
until the end of the war that has been decreed;
there will be desolations.
9:27 He will confirm a covenant with many
for one week. But in the middle of that week
he will bring sacrifice and offering to a halt
on the wing of a desolating abomination,
until the decreed end is poured out on the one who makes desolate."
Daniel received a prophecy of seventy weeks concerning the duration of events leading up to the end of the age. The word "weeks" here in Hebrew means "sevens." These are periods of seventy "sevens" of years. Seventy periods of seven years each have been determined for sin to run to completion, for Jesus to atone for iniquity and bring everlasting righteousness, for the vision received by Daniel to happen completely, and for God to set up His throne with us in His presence. The anointed one in Daniel is Jesus. It takes 69 weeks until the crucifixion of Jesus (cutting off of the anointed one), and the destruction of the temple (sanctuary) by the coming prince, which occurred in cf 70 AD. That leaves one week to go, or seven years, for the completion of the vision. We see in Daniel 9: 27 that "the one who makes desolate" makes peace with many for one week (or seven years). During this time Jews begin to sacrifice in the temple again, which had to have been rebuilt. But in the middle of the week (three and a half years) 'the abomination of desolation' stands in the temple and stops sacrifice. These are the actions of the Anti-Christ.
The beginning of this seven year period is marked by a confirmation of covenant with many by the Anti-Christ, and the rebuilding of the Jewish temple for sacrifice. This still has to happen as at the date of writing. Jesus said that when these events take place, there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen.(23) This is the Wrath of the Lamb referred to in Revelation(24), which is a series of judgements that Jesus pours out on the earth and its inhabitants. These judgements are before Judgement Day, and are really a result of God's mercy in that He gives people a chance to see His power and accept salvation through His Son before the end of the age.
Matthew 24:22 And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 24:23 Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There he is!' do not believe him. 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 24:25 Remember, I have told you ahead of time. 24:26 So then, if someone says to you, 'Look, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out, or 'Look, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe him. 24:27 For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 24:28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.
This period of great distress and suffering has been cut short by God for the sake of those who love Him. That's how bad it will be! But He warns us again: Beware of falsehoods. People will claim to be gods during this time of history, even Christ Himself, and will be convincing because they will even perform miracles. Remember, God Himself has given us the truth about His Son. All scripture is God-breathed(25), and it says that the truth will set you free.(26) The truth about Jesus is that God the Father loves us (you and I) so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for us, and whoever believes in Him (that's Jesus) shall not perish but have eternal life.(27)
Verse 27 of Matthew 24 (above) is talking about the rapture. The rapture is the taking of all those who truly believe in Jesus. This surely is the greatest sign that the end of the age is at hand. Millions of true Christians will vanish from the earth. Where will they go?
1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them [dead believers] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord always.
Believers who are alive will be caught up suddenly with all those believers who died, and will meet Jesus in the air. Jesus (in Matthew) also warns that it will be sudden, as lightning flashes from the east to the west.(28) This may sound far fetched to you, but it's the truth, it's the word of God, and knowing and believing it will save you. At this stage of history, do you not rather want to be a believer and be a part of Jesus, who has all authority and power on earth?(29)
Matthew 24:29 "Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. 24:30 "Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
More signs, depicted by the sun, moon and stars. Then Jesus (the Son of Man) will come, and He will come with power and glory and He will take up His kingship. But many want to know when that will be. What does Jesus teach?
Matthew 24:36 "Now about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, except the Father alone. 24:37 For just like the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 24:38 For in those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. 24:39 And they knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. It will be the same at the coming of the Son of Man. 24:40 Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one left. 24:41 There will be two women grinding grain with a mill; one will be taken and one left. 24:42 "Therefore stay alert, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 24:43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have been alert and would not have let his house be broken into. 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Jesus said that only the Father knows when His second coming would be, but He compares it to the situation Noah and his family faced when the great flood came. Noah knew it was going to rain, and he was expectant. He entered the ark in faith and waited for it to start raining. Do you think he was surprised by the rain? Of course not. He knew the season, but not the day or hour. Unbelievers and scoffers however, were taken by complete surprise and were drowned. They had rejected God's word. The truth was not within them and they were not therefore set free. So it is with us. Jesus has given us the signs to watch out for and has commanded us to stay alert and to be ready. Jesus has given us the truth about Himself and about the end of the age. Dare we reject His truth? Dare we scoff at the prophecy of Jesus? You are witness to the signs He spoke of. Do you not think that God is talking to you? Calling you? Call out to Him and pray, right now. You will be saved! Mercy triumphs over judgement.(30)
How does knowing all this affect me?
Many Christians argue about when the rapture will be. Remember the rapture is a separate event to the second coming of Christ, but many believe they will occur together. Briefly, some believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, some in a pre-wrath rapture and some in a post-tribulation rapture. Now that's a mouthful isn't it? The tribulation is generally accepted as being the period during which God pours out three series of 7 judgements on the earth and humankind.(31) Jesus Himself referred to the severity of the tribulation:
Matthew 24:21 For then there will be great suffering unlike anything that has happened from the beginning of the world until now, or ever will happen.
Some hold that the disappearance of Christian believers in the rapture will be before this, but some believe we will endure the tribulation. Others believe that the rapture will occur somewhere in the middle of the tribulation before the Wrath of the Lamb (32) (pre-wrath). It is not my intention to support any of these views, but rather to underplay the importance of the rapture "when", and emphasize the surety of its occurrence, and its implications for believing in Jesus Christ.
Biblical prophecy is true. This means that we can rely on the truth of God's word. We've seen what the Bible says about end times and signs thereof. The rapture (and the second coming of Christ) will happen. If the rapture has not yet happened, our faith needs to be prepared and ready for the day. If the rapture has already happened, there is very little time left to the second coming of Jesus Christ. You can still receive salvation by believing, but once He comes its too late to change your mind.
The book of Revelation is a prophecy given to John by Jesus of the fate of our planet and the destination of humankind. Many are discouraged by the prophetic nature of Revelation. I will summarize important events that are relevant to this discussion. The first seven judgements, of a total of 21, are called the seal judgements (or dooms).(33) These start the tribulation period, during which time a quarter of earth's population dies.
The seven Seals:
- Establishment of the Anti-Christ, or False Christ. (This is the rider of the first white horse who is given a crown and the ability to conquer his enemies.)
- Global war. (The rider of the red horse has a sword and is given permission to take peace so that people will war with one another.)
- Extensive famine. (The rider of the black horse has a balance. During this time the average daily salary of a person will only cover 1 person's rations for 1 day.)
- Death. (The rider of the pale green horse is called death and is followed by Hades. He is permitted to kill a quarter of earth's population by the sword, famine, pestilence and wild animals.)
- Completion of the number of martyrs. (During this time Christian believers are persecuted and killed until their set number is fulfilled. The cry of the martyrs is heard by God.)
- A great earthquake and darkness. (The sun will go dark, the moon red, and stars will fall from the sky. Believers will receive a mark from God that will identify them as believers.)
- Silence in heaven for half an hour. (Preparation is made for the next 7 judgements, the trumpets. This is accompanied by thunder, lightning and an earthquake.)
The seven Trumpets:(34)
- Hail, fire and blood. (One third of all trees and the earth is burned up, and all the grass is burned.)
- Explosion in the ocean. (What is likely to be a meteorite falls into the ocean. One third of the sea turns into blood, one third of the sea creatures die, and one third of the ships are destroyed.)
- Asteroid poisoning of fresh water. (Wormwood turns one third of earth's fresh water bitter, and people die from the poisoned water.)
- One third darkening. (One third of the sun is darkened, one third of the moon is darkened, one third of the stars are darkened, one third of day and night will be without light.)
- Release of demons. (Demons are release from the abyss. They are locust-like with a scorpion function to sting unbelievers only. Those stung will suffer for 5 months and wish to die but will not.)
- Mobility of huge army and death. (200 million soldiers on horseback kill one third of all humanity using fire, smoke and sulphur.)
- Disruption of the world system. (Two witnesses will prophecy, die and be resurrected. An earthquake in Jerusalem will destroy one tenth of the city and kill 7000 people. The Anti-Christ (Beast) blasphemes God, conquers believers and rules globally. Unbelievers worship the Beast. The False Prophet rises up to worship the Beast and performs signs and wonders. The False Prophet institutes the mark of the Beast on the hand or forehead which limits trade to those who have the mark.)
After the seven Trumpets, seven Bowl judgements are poured out.(35) These are:
- Sores on unbelievers. (Ugly and painful sores occur on those who have the mark of the Beast.)
- Death of ocean life. (The seas turn to blood and all ocean life dies.)
- Freshwater turns to blood. (Rivers and springs of water are turned to blood.)
- Scorching heat. (The sun scorches people with fire and terrible heat.)
- Darkness. (Darkness covers the Beast's kingdom, and people suffer and bite their tongues because of the pain.)
- Armageddon. (The Euphrates River dries up to prepare the way for the kings of the east. The kings of the earth gather for the battle of Armageddon.)
- Natural disasters and the Day of the Lord. (A loud voice from the temple proclaims "It is done!" Lightning, thunder, and the biggest earthquake known to humanity occur. Jerusalem is split into 3 parts, and the cities of the nations collapse. Hailstones of 100 pounds fall. Jesus returns!)
The book of Revelation reveals the details of what Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24, and provides vivid signs that lead, over a period of seven years, to the end of the age and the second coming of our Lord. These signs clearly set out what MUST happen and because God warned us beforehand their fulfillment bears witness to God's power and mercy. What must happen sounds terrible, but God is being merciful in that He gives humankind profound warning of the end of the age. Humans will suffer, and that includes Christians, but our hope and strength is in Jesus Christ who, when He comes will redeem believers and glorify them with eternal life in the kingdom of God. I know that I have said that before, but I can't stress the importance of choosing to believe in Jesus enough. What this all means for you is that you need to prepare yourself for what is to happen. Accept the truth and reject the lies of what people are saying. Believe what the Bible says about salvation, judgement day, and eternity, and give your life to Jesus Christ.
May the blessings of the one true God cause you to find Him, His Son, His Spirit, and His gift of salvation which He extends to ALL.
Summary excluding Revelation
- Watch out!
- Persecution of Christians
- False prophets
- Continued preaching
- Rise of the Anti-Christ
- Wrath of the Lamb preceded by the abomination of desolations
- False signs and wonders
- Jesus has warned us
- His coming is sudden (this is likely the rapture)
- Astronomical signs (sun, moon and stars)
- Astrological sign (as in the birth of Jesus(36))
- Jesus comes
Prayer for salvation:
What follows is a prayer that will help you receive salvation. Pray it out aloud to God and believe it in your heart. Expect that it will change you and your life.
I realize that I have not been obedient to your Word, and that this constitutes sin. I also realize that the only sin you wont forgive is my rejection of you. I am ready to do what it takes to receive salvation. I am ready to commit to You and to believe. I am ready to repent in my heart. Please forgive me Lord Jesus. I confess that You are Lord. I choose to acknowledge that right now. I believe that you died for me Lord Jesus, so that my sins could be blotted out. Thank you! I believe in my heart that God raised you from the dead, and that you sit in heaven with the Father. I choose this day, to accept your covenant Lord Jesus. Thank you that I am now saved. Help me to develop my relationship with you. I want to know you Lord Jesus. May your name be praised for ever.
Congratulations! You are now saved and have become a son or daughter of the most high God, co-heirs with Jesus Christ. My suggestion to you is that you find a Bible and read the gospel according to John. Enjoy!
1. John 8: 32
2. Romans 2: 15
3. John 3: 16-18; 1 Corinthians 15: 3
4. Matthew 4: 4
5. Genesis 1: 26
6. John 17: 17
7. Luke 4: 18
8. John 1: 14
9. 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17; 1 Corinthians 15: 51-54
10. Romans 10: 9
11. Romans 14: 12-13
12. James 2: 13
13. Revelation 7: 9
14. 1 Thessalonians 4: 17
15. Luke 21: 29-31
16. Matthew 24: 4 - 31
17. John 1: 1
18. Matthew 28: 18
19. Matthew 3: 17; John 1: 34
20. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-4
21. Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1: 3
22. Matthew 24: 12; Ezekiel 13: 10
23. Matthew 24: 21
24. Revelation 6: 16
25. 2 Timothy 3: 16
26. John 8: 32
27. John 3: 16
28. Matthew 24: 27
29. Matthew 28: 18
30. James 2: 13
31. Revelation 6 - 16: 21
32. Revelation 6: 16
33. Revelation 6 - 8: 1
34. Revelation 8: 7 - 12: 6
35. Revelation 16: 1-21
36. Matthew 2: 2