Week 4 More Signs and Visions of Empires
Continuing on in Mt. 24, we see that there will be a persecution of believers. Mt. 24:9-10 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other”. It will not be easy being a Christian during the End Times, several Christians will be put to death for their belief. People who believe the Pretribulation Rapture will say that all Christians will be caught up before the Tribulation and will not suffer. The people that Jesus is talking about here are people who come to faith after the Rapture, because they realize that Jesus is true, and come to a late salvation. However, the contexts of these passages we have been going through in Matthew do not support this. He did not say that many people will come to faith and then have to die for their belief. He just goes through some of the birth pain signs, and says that believers will be persecuted and put to death. This indicates that people who believed in Him before the Tribulation begins are the same people who will have to suffer as well. As I said before, I am hoping for the Pretribulation Rapture, but want to be ready in case I have to go through the Tribulation. But also note the next verse, because of the persecution that Believers will have to endure; many will turn away from their faith in Jesus. They will even betray and hate other Christians. They will cause even more Christians to lose their lives, because of those who once believed. We can not give in to the world’s ways just to avoid persecution and expect to still make it into heaven. God will never deny Himself, and we cannot deny Him either. Jesus stated in Mt 10:33 “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” No matter how much persecution we have to endure, we cannot reject Jesus and still make it to heaven. It is only by us accepting Jesus and the grace of Him giving His life on the cross that we can make it to heaven in the first place. He died for us so we can make it to heaven; we need to be able to do the same for Him. He never promised that it would be easy to follow Him; that is why He said to take up our cross. The cross was a means of slow death in those days, as that was the way that Romans executed criminals. As a matter of fact, while Jesus was on the Via Dolorosa, the road that led Him to the cross, He warned that those who follow Him will be persecuted as well. Many people have lost their lives for the Lord, and by that, they have gained eternal life, because they did not deny the Lord who was crucified for them.
Nor can we just listen to anyone who calls themselves a Christian and teaches other people. Jesus also warned us that false prophets will arise and lead many people away. Many people will be lead into a false belief about Jesus. They will believe some nice talking preacher or evangelist who is saying what they want to hear, not what they need to hear. So they will lose their salvation. We cannot get to God however we think we can, nor can we make up our own beliefs about God. We must stick to what is true and that is what God teaches us about Himself in the Bible. That is a tried and true means of getting to know Him. Many more people will lose hope in the God of all creation because they are not getting their own way. Does that sound like many people in our culture today, the ‘Me First’ culture? There are many people who think that they should have their own way all the time and that nothing bad should happen to them. People who are not courteous and polite just so they can be first in line or make you stop so they can walk behind you as you are backing your car up? They will think that God is not listening to them or doesn’t exist and they will leave Him, not realizing the great loss they will suffer if they do. God will let us go through difficult times, but there is a great reward for those who do. Christians will see lawlessness abounding in these times, as it will be very difficult times. Some will think since God is not stopping the wickedness from happening that He must not exist. They think that God is a God of love, and how can a God of love let bad things happen to people? Yes, God is a God of love, and that is why He sent His Son Jesus to die for us. But He still gives men their free will to do what they want to do. He is a God who wants us to love Him, not a demanding God who makes us love Him. Verses 13 and 14 give us more good promises. That the person who endures these problem times and stays true to God will be saved, they will make it to their eternal reward in heaven. Jesus also promised that the end will not come until everyone in the world has a chance to hear about Him in truth. God does not want anyone to die in their sins and go to Hell, but He will give everyone a chance to hear about Him and make that decision to follow Him in faith. This promise is given in II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you; not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
Just to touch on 1 more important point in Mt. 24. Verse 15 says “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand”. This abomination of desolation is spoken about in Dan. 9:27. It talks about how the Antichrist will cause this abomination half way through the 70th week. This is understood by many scholars as someone who desecrates the Temple of God. This was actually done by Antiochus Epiphanes around 167 B.C. He erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed pigs there. Not only did he desecrate the Temple by putting the statue there, but he also sacrificed animals there which the Jews were not allowed to eat. They are not kosher. Whereas some scholars believe that this is the abomination that Daniel prophesied, many pre-tribulationists believe that was just a precursor. The abomination that Daniel mentioned will occur halfway through the 70th Week, Dan 9:27 “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” This means that another sign is that the Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. The Temple can only be built in one location; that is the Temple mount in Jerusalem. Currently that is where the Dome of the Rock is at, which is the 3rd holiest place in Islam. Muslims are in control of this area, and won’t let anyone do any exploration of any kind of it; little alone let the Jews build another Temple there. But this has not prevented some faithful Jews from getting ready for the Temple to be rebuilt. This was found in Time Magazine in Oct. 1989, “Two Talmudic schools located near the Western Wall are teaching nearly two hundred students the elaborate details to Temple service. Other groups are researching the family lines of Jewish priests who alone may conduct sacrifices. Former Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, who heads another Temple Mount organization, believes his research has fixed location on the ancient Holy of Holies so that Jews can enter the Mount without sacrilege. No group is more zealous than the Temple Institute, whose spiritual leader, fifty-year-old Rabbi Israel Ariel, was one of the first Israeli paratroopers to reach the Mount in 1967. “Our task,” states the institute’s American- born director, Zev Golan, “is to advance the cause of the Temple and prepare for its establishment, not just talk about it.” Not only are men being trained as priests to do the work in the Temple per the law written by Moses, but they have also built many of the instruments found in the Old Testament also. Men are also looking for a Red Heifer that is needed to sanctify the priests for service. Many are looking for a time when the Temple can be rebuilt, and when it is, they will be ready to perform the Temple rituals as prescribed by Moses.
Increase in Lawlessness II Tim 3:1-7
Paul also warned Timothy that people will be getting a lot worse and farther away from God during the End Times. Does any of this sound like they describe people today? People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Look at the way mankind is today. We have major problems with pornography, drugs, drunkenness, gangs, terrorism, homosexuality. Look at our mainstream entertainment, movies, music and TV. You see a lot of adultery in those, and they make it look natural. There is hardly a sitcom on TV without a homosexual person, making that look like a normal lifestyle. Gangsta rap is a very popular kind of music that glorifies a violent life. One of the most dangerous circumstance for police officers are domestic disputes, people have such non love for their family that police have to expect anything to happen. Many people are me-first. Ever have anybody cut you off while driving because they want to get there first? Many people believe in evolution, so they think they are animals so are driven by their lusts. Here in this and many other countries we are into our money and spending it on ourselves, houses, cars, TV’s, furniture, etc. Many people would rather spend their money on going places, whether day trips or vacations, than giving a portion of their money as tithes and offerings to the kingdom of God. As for brutal, who could forget that April 22, 1999, when two students killed 12 fellow students, 1 teacher, and directly injured 21 others before killing themselves at Colombine High School in Colorado? Or how about April 16, 2007, when one man killed 32 people and injured several others before killing himself at Virginia Tech? And it’s not just happening in the United States. On December 31, 2009, a gunman killed his ex-girlfriend and 4 workers before killing himself at a suburban shopping mall near Helsinki, Finland. We see this kind of thing happening throughout the world. As for terrorists, it is well known that they will strap bombs to themselves and blow up innocent people. I read on 2/4/10 in worldnetdaily.com that they have found out that now they are giving woman explosive breast implants, and in men they can insert it in the appendix area or the buttock. It’s a small amount, but enough to put a considerable hole in a plane. These could not be found by usual airport scanning machines.
VISIONS OF EMPIRES
The Bible does mention some nations and empires that will be major participants in End Time events. To see them we have to look in a few different books of the bible. There is not one nice convenient place to find them all. By looking at these it will help to give us a better idea about when End time events could be taking place. To see if these nations that are mentioned are still around and if they are major players in today’s world still. If we see some correlation, that would help to give us a better understanding about the possibility of us being at the beginning stage, or the birth pains, at this time.
God knew even before Jesus was born what would be the timing and the plan for the end of the ages. God is a God who can use anybody, believer and un-believer alike. He even revealed the chain of major world kingdoms in a dream to an ancient king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. The king didn’t understand the dream, it perplexed him. He called for all the enchanters, magicians, sorcerers and astrologers of his kingdom to come and interpret the dream for him with a major catch; they also had to tell the king what the dream was. Of course, they couldn’t. This infuriated the king; evidently he was used to having his way on everything. So he was going to have all of the wise men of the kingdom put to death. When a faithful Israeli, Daniel, who had been taken into captivity and was being trained as a wise man found this out, he went into the king and asked for time so that he might be able to interpret the dream for Nebuchadnezzar. So Daniel got three of his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, (also known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,) to go in earnest prayer so they may now and interpret the dream. God answered the prayer of four faithful men and gave Daniel the dream and the interpretation of the dream.
It was a large statue that Nebuchadnezzar had seen. It had a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, belly and thigh of bronze, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and partly of clay. What an odd looking statue! But that was not all. He saw a rock, not cut with human hands, smash into the feet of this statue and made the statue crash down. The entire statue then fell into such small pieces that they were blown away by the wind. Then that rock became a large mountain. No wonder the king was so perplexed at this and wanted an interpretation of it!
Daniel showed to the king how this dream was from God, and that God revealed to him the plans for major kingdoms that would rise and fall before the End of the Ages. I am sure that Nebuchadnezzar was glad to hear that this head of gold was him and his kingdom of Babylon. God ordains governments, whether they are good or bad. It is He who gives governments this authority. And God had given this authority to Nebuchadnezzar, so his was this first kingdom. But his kingdom would not be a lasting one. It would fall and be replaced by another one.
This didn’t happen in Nebuchadnezzar’s lifetime, but it did in the lifetime of his son, Belshazzar, as found in Daniel Ch. 5. This new king had a great feast one time for his noblemen. He decided to use the gold and silver goblets that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. These were holy instruments only to be used in service to God in the temple. So this did not please the God of all the earth. This is when the king saw human fingers write something on a wall. That was: “Mene , Mene , Tekel , Parsin”. Daniel once again gave the interpretation of this. “Mene : God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres : Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” Sometimes God doesn’t take very long until His Word comes to pass. That very night, the leader of the Mede-Persian Empire, Darius, overtook Babylon and killed Belshazzar. The Medo-Persian Empire is the second empire mentioned in this vision; it was the chest and arms of silver.
The third empire in this vision is Greece. During the reign of Belshazzar Daniel had received a vision which helps to clarify this, as recorded in Daniel 8. In this vision Daniel saw a great 2 horned ram, pushing its way westward, northward and southward, that no beast could stand before it. Then he saw a 1 horned goat come out of the west. This goat charged the ram with all it had and hit the ram, breaking both of its horns. The ram then had no power and was trampled by the goat. The goat was very great. Then its single horn was broken, and in its place rose 4 notable horns toward the 4 winds. In verse 21 the goat is identified as Greece, with the first horn being its first king. History bears witness to the accuracy of this prophecy. Alexander the Great lead the Grecian army toward the east and conquered every army in his path. This includes leading his army against the major empire of that time, the Medo-Persian Empire. The Medo-Persian Empire had the superior weapons of its day with its chariots. They had a larger army. Yet Alexander’s army was able to break the Medo-Persian army and win the battle. Alexander did not have any children. So when he died an early death at the age of 32, his empire was divided to his 4 generals: Egypt by Ptolemy, Syria with Seleucus, Macedonia by Cassander, and Lysimachus in Thrace. This is all a fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel; one king rose up and defeated Media-Persia, and after his death four generals rose up and divided this new kingdom into four.
Going back to Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue, the legs were of iron. This is the fourth vision. This was fulfilled in the Roman Empire. It was like iron, it crushed everything in its path. This Empire grew much larger than any of the other ones, overtaking every nation that it wanted to, including the previous three nations. It also lasted for the longest time. Founded in about 753 BC, and ended in the 6th Century AD. They were so strong there was even a period of about 200 years that is called the “Pax Romana”, when there were no major wars.
The 5th Empire in the vision is the feet made partly of iron and partly of clay. This is a mixture that cannot mix well together for a solid substance. This is a vision of the revived Roman Empire, the empire that the Antichrist will lead. The mixture shows the strength of the mighty nations mixed together with weaker nations to make a larger empire. This Empire will be big, and it will have its strengths, but since it is mixed with clay, this structure cannot stand for long.
The 6th Empire this vision speaks about is the rock that is cut not by human hands, that is, the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will come and destroy these other kingdoms and set up the eternal kingdom that will never die.
There is one more vision that God gave Daniel to give us more insight into the kingdoms, and the Revived Roman Empire from which the Antichrist will come.
– A lion with the wings of an eagle: this is the Babylonian Empire which Jeremiah 4 prophesied would destroy Judah if it did not repent using these same images of the strength of a lion and swiftness of an eagle. (7:4)
– A bear raised up on one side with 3 ribs in its mouth: this is the Medo-Persian Empire, raised up on one side because the Persians were the superior people in the Empire. The 3 ribs likely refer to the 3 conquests of the Empire in taking over the spoils of Lydia, Babylon and Egypt. (7:5)
– A leopard with 4 wings on its back and 4 heads: this is the Grecian Empire initially under Alexander the Great which quickly conquered the known world shown by the wings but after his death at an untimely early age of 32 his empire was divided between his 4 generals – signified by the 4 heads (7:6) and which Daniel also later prophesied about (11:4)
– A terrifying beast with iron teeth and 10 horns: this is the Roman Empire, and the last of all the Beasts shown to Daniel. The iron teeth correspond to the iron legs that Nebuchadnezzar saw, and the 10 horns correspond with the 10 nations depicted as the iron mixed with clay toes of the statue (7:7). From these 10 horns arose another smaller one which spoke boasting words and which was judged directly by God through destruction and being cast into the burning river of fire that was before God’s throne (7:10-11) (From http://www.discerningthetimes.net)
This Revived Roman Empire will come from a confederacy of 10 nations. The Antichrist will overthrow three of these nations and then lead the entire confederacy. More about him later. But this is several nations that band together to form a strong union. We can look back on history and see the first kingdoms, but can’t see this terrifying beast kingdom. It looks like it is still in the future from us. Could this prophecy be being fulfilled in our time? Let’s look at some possibilities.
Since this is a revival of an ancient empire, it must have common roots with the past empire. That is why several people have been looking at the European Union. This started out in 1958 with 6 nations, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, trying to bring about economic unity integration and had the name European Economic Community. This community kept growing in nations and unity and in 1993 formed the basis of the European Union, which now has 27 member nations, mostly in Europe. This is an international association that has formed a single market with standardized laws in each of the member nations. They have a common currency which can be used in 16 of the nations. A citizen of one EU country doesn’t need a passport to enter another EU country. They have a President and other leaders of this union. They have many treaties which help to combine them in a legal system, foreign relations, limited military capabilities, humanitarian aid, agriculture, and in many other ways.
Could the European Union be the Revived Roman Empire? Possibly. Many of the nations are in the area of the northern portion of the old Roman Empire and includes Italy, which was the seat of the ancient Roman Empire. It has combined many nations into a commonwealth, thereby increasing their financial and military capabilities. They have leadership which unites them in many decisions that affect all of them. They have set a standard by providing a currency that can be used in many nations. Many nations have socialist leanings, meaning that the government is in control of many aspects of life, like their health care. They are a leader of many socialist ideas, which they disguise as Global Agreements. Their leader’s think that big government is the answer to the world’s problems and that they should be in control of all aspects of life. They are really helping to set the pattern for a global government. Even the current President of the United States, Barack Obama, is trying to incorporate many of their socialist ideas and use them here. But one problem with this theory is they have is that there are way more than 10 nations. Currently there are 27 nations, there are also several other nations who have applied for membership. So even though they have many things going for them which could make them the Revived Roman Empire, there are just too many nations as a part of them. One of two things would have to occur in order for the Revived Roman Empire to come from them. Either several nations would have to combine to become single nation, thereby reducing the total number of nations like East Germany and West Germany did in October 1990. I was recently talking to a friend who knows someone from the EU, he said that this is in the works with some nations. Another option is that several nations would have to break off from the European Union to start a new commonwealth of some kind. So if it is a new confederation of nations or the European Union, we need to be on the lookout for nations in the territory of the ancient Roman Empire to rise up as one with a strong leader.