Updated: Feb 24, 2021
Shortly after 9/11, a heartbroken and humbled America began asking in earnest if we were truly living in the last days. The response they got (from the so-called experts) was a cacophonic chorus of yes, no’s, and everything in-between. It truly was a missed opportunity for the church to unite in message and declare the nearness of our Lord’s return, and to be a witness to the nation.
Instead, we wasted it arguing over hermeneutical primacy and archaic denominational traditions. God then gave the American churches a second opportunity to shine in unison during the 2008 economic meltdown. Again, not missing a beat, the American church quickly and efficiently formed its circular firing squad, and yelled, ready, fire, aim!
However, let us not kid ourselves.
God is both sovereign and omnipotent; therefore, the future is never hidden from Him (Isa. 46:9-10). He knew from before the foundation of the world that the western church would increasingly succumb too in an increasingly morally vacuous culture (Revelation 1-3). God’s strategic coup de grâce against the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:3), would be through a second wave (latter rain) of evangelical, guerilla, spiritual warfare.
In such a time as this, the Holy Spirit would once again move through both nations and denominations, stirring select disciples with a passion to return to biblical literacy and accuracy.
Disciple, Scholar, Prophet
It is doubtful if there has been any other circle of men [dispensationalists] who have done more by their influence in preaching, teaching and writing to promote a love for Bible study, a hunger for the deeper Christian life, a passion for evangelism and zeal for missions in the history of American Christianity. —Dispensationalist Critic, George E. Ladd
In His foreknowledge of things to come (i.e., the increasingly perilous times of the 20th and 21st centuries), God spent the previous 100 years, raising up true, biblical scholars through the 19th-century Dispensationalist movement. The Holy Spirit began to stir men to study, moving them out of their slumbering Protestant denominations, and into a growing non-denominational movement of men and women who had a passion for a return to the literal, grammatical, and historical interpretation of Scripture.
Upon returning to a literal interpretation, these theological pioneers were awakened to the overwhelmingly prophetic and apocalyptic nature of the Bible. These were to become the biblical standard-bearers moving into the last days. They did not invent these prophetic revelations; they simply, rediscovered what the Bible has been saying all along. After removing the centuries-old blinders of dogmas and denominational biases, they began to look at scripture with fresh eyes.
Dispensationalists from all stripes came to the same inescapable conclusion that the sine qua non of Scripture was recognizing the differences between the prophecies and promises related to national Israel, and to those of the New Testament Church.
“The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the Church. This grows out of the dispensationalist’s consistent employment of normal or plain or historical-grammatical interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well.” Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism, p. 41
Just as God used the first-century apostles to gather disciples to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, these early church fathers, were to be the biblical standard-bearers for the early church. Not only would these men and women contend for the faith against heresies and apostasies, (which were cropping up by the day), but were also called to be examples. They would be known for their love (agape and phileo), in contending for the one true faith, and even until their martyrdom, would safeguard the infant church against Gnosticism, legalism, and paganism, which were simply satanic attempts to strangle the early church in its cradle.
In these last days, God would once again stir up a new generation of disciples; men like John N. Darby, William Blackstone, Cyrus Scofield, and Clarence Larkin, who would depart from their traditional denominations and wholly devote themselves to a deeper understanding of God’s word. I would include D. L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, and Billy Sunday to the groups as well. Although these last three were not necessarily dispensational in their hermeneutics, God impressed upon them lateness of the hour and their consuming passion for saving the lost. Regardless, their jobs was to wake the sleeping church (Revelation 3:3) out of its slumber and prepare her for what is about to come to pass.
Surely the Lord God does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
These 19th-century pioneers would come to greatly influence the 20th-century prophets and scholars. In the scholar category, I would include men like Lewis Sperry Chafer, Harry Ironside, J. Dwight Pentecost, Henry Morris, John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Tommy Ice, and others. These men would come to possess millennia worth of academic, historical, archeological, philosophical, and geopolitical knowledge.
As the world moved out of the industrial age, and into the age of information, their knowledge grafted into and contrasted what we knew/know, with a renewed understanding of God’s word. This prophetic proliferation of knowledge was graciously encapsulated into the minds of these men, who would go on to share that knowledge with the last generation of believers.
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” Daniel 12:4
In regards to the 20th-century prophets, I would include men like Billy Graham, Hal Lindsey, J. Vernon McGee, Dave Hunt, J.R. Church, Tim LaHaye, Jack Kelley, and Jack Kinsella. These prophets did not call down fire out of heaven or shut up the rains for years on end, but they did possess the uncanny ability to present prophetic truths with level of precision and clarity rarely matched.
All of the aforementioned did so based upon an accurate understanding of biblical prophecy. All of these would come to influence the growing and emerging mediums of communication (i.e., radio and internet platforms), with ministries such as: Thru the Bible, The Omega Letter, Grace Thru Faith, Olive Tree Ministries, Hal Lindsey Report, Behold Israel, CARM, Rapture Ready, Rapture Forums, and Got Questions (to name just a few). These candles in the night would become increasingly important sources of light for those living in an increasingly darkening world.
These ministries would become a standard for biblical truths in an information-saturated age. These ministries would also become a repository of sound biblical teachings and of prophetic truths, which were no longer coming from America’s pulpits. This new medium of Internet-based ministries would come to impact millions of believers and seekers worldwide, in an age, where geopolitical tensions, terrorism, pandemics, lack of interest, and financial stress has put global missions on the decline.
The Last Days
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 1 Timothy 1:1-5
When the secular world talks about the last days, they normally associate “the end” as coming from a naturalistic (or at least, rationally explainable) cause. Simply turn on Nat-Geo or the History Channel any night of the week, and you will get an endless parade of “experts” presenting their theories on how they think the world will end. From their perspective, the most likely scenarios involve an event such as a rogue meteor, runaway climate change, mega-earthquake, or some type of pandemic. These are about the only academically acceptable extinction-level-event (ELE) or global cataclysmic scenarios.
Adding fuel to this particular fire, Hollywood has also long championed the naturalistic doom and gloom genre, because it gives a false sense of hope that we can avoid this seemingly fated, rendezvous with destiny (The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, and Interstellar). Hollywood also likes this genre, because it makes them a ridiculous amount of money, regardless of how preposterous their version of the end might be (ex. I am Legend, Sharknado, and World War Z). Hollywood especially delights in twisting and then capitalizing off misusing biblical terminology to present their interpretation in a non-biblical scenario for their version of the end (think 1998’s Armageddon, Rapture-Palooza).
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3
When asked by His disciples about the last days as they understood it (i.e., Old Testament perspective), Jesus did not say there was any one particular sign that would signal the start of last days. Instead, He said the signs of the end (i.e., wars, rumors of war, pestilence, famines, earthquakes, and false teachers) would come like birth pangs, increasing in both frequency and intensity as the time drew closer. If there were any one particular sign, it would be the convergence of all these things.
A tempting, yet, highly inaccurate and unbiblical form of prophetic teachings is known as historicism. It attempts to force the news of the day onto the pages of bible prophecy, and vice versa. The end did not happen with the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD70. The end did not start with the rise of the Roman Catholic Church. The end did not start with 14th-century Black Plague, or World War 1. The end did not start with the rise of Adolph Hitler and his Third Reich. The end did not start with AIDS, SARS, Ebola, or this new strand of Coronavirus. The end started, when Jesus ascended into heaven after His death, burial, and resurrection.
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; Hebrews 1:1-2
During His earthly life and earthly ministry, Christ (as a man) limited His divinity in many ways. While He did perform miracles, He only did so only to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies to validate His claims of Messiahship. One of the things He willingly limited Himself on was knowing exactly when He would usher in His kingdom. That is not to say, Christ was any less of God for not knowing, but had He known, He could not have said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36). However, after His ascension, (this author’s opinion) Christ is received into heaven to receive the Revelation.
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God, and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, to all things that he saw. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:1-3
This is what John is shown in Revelation chapter 5; the grand reception ceremony of Christ as the victorious conqueror over sin, death, hell, and Satan. Although He goes on to open the Sealed Scrolls during Revelation 6, we must remember that there is no “time” in the eternal realm. John had to step out of time in order to view the unveiling in heaven. In other words, John was shown this in AD95, some sixty years after the birth of the Church, yet, John was shown this as Christ’s inaugural entrance right after His ascension. Somewhat confusing concept to wrap our minds around, yet, it is the only way that makes sense.
It is hard to blame the non-Christian for getting the last days wrong. Heck, most Christians cannot even agree on how and when the end happens. The reason for this growing divergence is that they have different forms of interpretation. The more allegorical or non-literal a denomination or theologian becomes; the less likely they are going to take the Bible at its word. Two points:
The Bible is by its very nature, an apocalyptic book. It is the world’s first/original apocalyptic book. This dates all the way back to Enoch (seventh from Adam- Jude 1:14). The first book ever penned even before Genesis (circa 2100 BC), the book of Job presents his literal and physical belief that he would one day see the Redeemer on the earth (Job 19:25-27).
The Bible is meant to be taken literally. When it is not, it either tells you or is so nonsensical that it could not be taken literally. For example, when Jesus said, “I am the door,” (John 10:9) we know He is not saying He is a literal door with wood, handle, and hinges. We get the meaning of the symbolism because of the surrounding context. It is only through Him, that one can find salvation (John 14:6). Therefore, the correct and only legitimate way to interpret the bible is with a common sense, literal, grammatical, and historical interpretation (hermeneutic).
And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21:24
Jesus warned His Jewish disciples, that the temple and the city (Jerusalem) would be destroyed fulfilling Daniel 9:24-27. History has borne that out to be historically accurate. This was the second time Jerusalem was sacked and its temple leveled. The first was by the Babylonians in the 6th-century BC, this time it would be the Romans. The prophet Jeremiah warned the people that their captivity in Babylon would last seventy years. Moses warned them that if they disobeyed God (crucifying their Messiah certainly qualified), they would be scattered throughout the earth for a very long time (Deut. 30).
The prophet Ezekiel was told that the nation of Israel would be like a valley of dry bones, who would again rise up in the last days, and would become a mighty nation (Ez. 37). This came to pass at the conclusion of World War II and the Nazi Holocaust. In 1948, the Jews declared their statehood and became a nation again in one day (May 14, 1948).
Jesus stated that the generation who saw the fig tree bloom (Israel nationally was often referred to as a fig tree in the Old Testament). The fig tree lay dead and barren for nearly two-thousand years, suddenly and miraculously, brought back to life at the conclusion of World War II. Jesus warned that the Gentiles would trample Jerusalem down until the time of the end. That end came to its partial conclusion in 1967 when the Israelis retook the whole city in the Six-Day War.
Although the birth pangs serve as prophetic-markers for signaling the end of the age (i.e., the convergence), they also serve a practical purpose in desensitizing the secular world. But why would God do that? I suppose it is the same reason that Jesus routinely taught in parables and hard sayings.
Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given . . . . And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive, for the heart of this people has grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them’ (Matthew 13:11,14,15).
Unwillingness on the part of the people to receive Jesus’ message of the kingdom was the reason that He taught in parables. The truths of the kingdom of God were heard by them but not understood. It was not because God was hiding the truth from them-it was because they did not want to hear. (Source)
God has given us the foreknowledge (bible prophecy) and the signs to know when He would be returning to judge the world and restore it to its intended purposes (Jer. 30:7-11). Yet, most people do not want to believe. Most people will accept any reason (aliens, meteors, pandemics, zombies, etc.) before they accept the biblical explanation for how this age ends. They are not only rejecting the repeated warnings, but they are even embracing catastrophism as the new normal (climate change).
In keeping with the 7,000-year theory (I happen to believe this without reservation), which matches God’s seven-days of Creation, God has only given the Church two-millennial days to bring as many with us as we can, before He ends this present reality. Think about it this way, it was two-thousand years (two millennial days) from Adam to Abraham. It was two-thousand years (two millennial days) from Abraham to Jesus. Depending on when we start the clock (either Christ’s birth or crucifixion); we are at two-thousand years from Jesus to the present. Remember that national Israel was not in existence for most of these last two-thousand years.
God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. He did not have to do that. He could have spoken everything into existence in a fraction of a second, and it would have been just as perfect. He used the seven-days as a model for us to live by, as well as a model for how long He would deal with mankind. Notice here, that when comparing a day to a thousand years, the Bible does not say thousands (plural), but thousand (singular).
~For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night. Psalm 90:4 (author-Moses)
~But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8 (author-Peter)
Lastly, we have the key to our prophetic understanding. The prophet Hosea, who, speaking to the restoration of Israel, noted,
Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, That we may live in His sight. Let us know, Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, Like the latter and former rain to the earth Hosea 6:1-3
We are in the last moments, of the last day (the second day). We have witnessed two-thousand years of church history, the rebirth of the nation Israel, and the convergence of all the signs given to us in the Olivet Discourse, the epistles, and the Revelation have either been fulfilled, or is coming to its economic, geopolitical, and technological fulfillment. Maranatha