End Times - Putting the Pieces in Place
Chapter 1: Introduction
There are quite a few strange people running around with all kinds of theories about what will happen during the End Times. These people love to talk about end-time events with anyone who will listen. Since I wrote this book, some people will probably think I am just another one of those persons with an unnatural interest in weird prophecies and theories. Actually, I am a somewhat conservative Christian who has largely tended to avoid the more spectacular and controversial teachings in the Bible. After all, there is plenty to keep me busy learning to love others as Jesus loves me.
As I have grown to love Jesus more, I have also grown to love and care for the people He died for (that's all of us). As a result, I feel a responsibility and desire to share those things that I have learned in the hope that it will help others avoid the efforts of the enemy to deceive and destroy them and their loved ones.
In 1974, the Lord confronted my erroneous beliefs about end-time events. He taught me some things from His word that made End Times much easier to understand. Over the years, I have compiled some of that information to share with others. Recently, I have felt a desire to organize as much of that information as possible into a resource book that may be helpful to others who love Jesus.
The information in this book is compiled with four types of people in mind. For those people who desire only an overall view of the End Times, a chronological chart of end-time events is provided (see page 43). Charts and pictures are used in the book to help explain relationships between the various events (see pages 43 and 59). For those people who want general information on each of the end-time events, a general description of end-time events is provided at the beginning of most chapters. For people who want an end-time reference book that is easy and fast to use, an event summary is included at the end of many chapters, and a complete index is provided. Finally, for those who desire to study the End Times in detail, Scripture references are supplied throughout and detailed information on several topics is provided in the appendices. (Numbers used in word definitions refer to the Strong's Concordance numbering system.) While the material in this book can be read straight through, it is primarily designed as a handy reference that provides easy and nearly complete access to end-time information. This book is divided into several major sections as follows.
Introduction and General Information. This section includes chapters one, two, and three. The information in these chapters provide background and other information that is helpful when studying end-time events.
Major End-Time Events. This section includes chapters four through twelve. Each chapter in this section provides detailed information on one of the major aspects of the End Times. The chapters are placed in chronological order based on the material covered.
Miscellaneous Information. This section (chapter thirteen) is a collection of information on various end-time issues. Specific details of some end-time issues and questions are explained in this chapter. The beginning of the chapter has a topical list (with page numbers) of the issues covered. The index can also be used to locate desired information.
Preparing for the End Times. This chapter addresses some basic issues necessary for preparing for the possibly soon beginning of the End Times.
Appendices. The appendices contain supporting details for several premises in this book. Page references are provided throughout the book directing you to these appendices where applicable.
The Importance of Understanding End Times
Why is it important to understand end-time events? Probably the most significant indication of the importance of understanding end-time events is simply that they are included in the Bible. If God did not consider them important, they would not be included in the Bible. Second, Jesus told us to watch for certain events related to the End Times and the apostle Matthew cautioned us specifically to understand the prophecy concerning the Abomination of Desolation (Mat. 24:15-27). Finally, failure to correctly understand end-time events can cause a Christian to be shaken in mind or troubled unnecessarily (2 Thes. 2:2-5). Some have even had their faith overthrown by incorrect teachings concerning end-time events (2 Tim. 2:17-18). A proper understanding of end-time events seems to be important for effective Christian living and service. Fortunately, as explained in this book, end-time events are not nearly as difficult to understand as some people think.
On the other hand, correct understanding of end-time events is not a requirement for salvation (Rom. 10:9-10). When the Lord returns for His people, He will gather them whether or not they think it is the correct time. If God's people go through the Great Tribulation, then He will go with them and comfort them (Heb. 13:5-6; 2 Cor. 1:3-4; Ps. 23:4). As God was encouraging and strengthening the early Christians under Roman persecution, he will also strengthen and encourage each of us in persecutions we may suffer for His name.
Pieces to a Puzzle
Descriptions of various end-time events are scattered throughout the Bible. These descriptions provide significant, but incomplete information if they are viewed individually. The effect is similar to that of a box full of puzzle pieces. Individually, they convey important, but incomplete information. When assembled in the proper order, the overall picture becomes very clear.
Passages describing end-time events are similar to puzzle pieces scattered throughout the Bible. When an individual passage (i.e., piece of the puzzle) is studied, it is obviously important. However, it is sometimes difficult to understand how the pieces fit together.
With picture puzzles, the manufacturer provides clues called interlocking pieces. These clues must be studied along with the picture on the puzzle piece to determine which piece connects to which other pieces. As more pieces are linked together, the overall picture becomes clear and it begins to get easier to put the remaining pieces in their proper location. The Bible descriptions of end-time events are similar to a puzzle in this sense.
Too often, not enough end-time events are interlocked together to get a clear overall understanding of the End Times. That is part of the reason why there are so many theories about when Jesus will return to gather His people. Like the picture puzzle, as events are interlocked together it becomes easier to connect other pieces. As proper relationships between the individual pieces are established, the overall view becomes more clear.
Like puzzle manufacturers, God provided some interlocking pieces for establishing relationships between individual end-time events. These interlocking pieces are certain events that serve as reference points to other events. These interlocking events provide the keys necessary for putting the individual parts of the end-time picture together correctly.
As with assembling a puzzle, anyone who desires to understand End Times must concentrate first on putting the interlocking portions of the pieces together. These provide the information necessary to snap the pieces together in the proper order. After as many pieces as possible are snapped together, the overall picture is much clearer. This makes it easier to place the other pieces in their proper positions. So what are the interlocking parts that help make sense of end-time events?
One of the more obvious and important interlocking pieces in the end-time puzzle involves certain signs in the sun, moon, and stars. According to Matthew 24:29-30, these signs occur immediately after the end of the Great Tribulation. In Isaiah 13:9-13, these signs occur immediately prior to the Wrath of God. In Revelation 6:12-17, these signs occur just before the 144,000 are sealed, a great multitude appears before the throne of God, and the Wrath of God begins. Since the signs in the sun, moon, and stars signal the end of the Great Tribulation, any events following those same signs must also occur after the Great Tribulation. This means that the sealing of the 144,000, the appearance of the great multitude in Heaven, and the Wrath of God must all occur after the end of the Great Tribulation.
The Great Tribulation precedes the signs in the sun, moon, and stars which occur before the Wrath of God. All events that are part of the Great Tribulation occur before the signs in the sun, moon, and stars. All events that are part of the Wrath of God occur after the signs in the sun, moon, and stars. Therefore, all events of the Great Tribulation must occur before any events of the Wrath of God. Unfortunately, some who teach about end-time events list the plagues of the Wrath of God as part of the Great Tribulation. This error has led to much confusion about the End Times. To clear this up, a definite distinction must be made between the events that occur during the Great Tribulation and those that occur during the Wrath of God. The following chapters in this book will cover each of these events in detail to help clarify the different events associated with each of the two time periods.
Events Are Not in Chronological Order
When studying end-time events, it is essential to understand that the order in which events are described is not necessarily the order that they occur. Sometimes, certain events are described out of chronological sequence to emphasize or complete an important point. This is especially true in the Book of Revelation. For example, Revelation 11:7 describes the Beast killing the two witnesses. Revelation 13:1 describes the Beast when he first comes up out of the sea. If these passages were chronological, then the Beast killed the two witnesses before he comes up out of the sea. Apparently, the events recorded in Revelation 13:1 must occur before those recorded in Revelation 11:7. (See page 43 for a chronological list of end-time events. Also refer to page 57 for information on the chronological sequence of the chapters in the Book of Revelation.)
Literal or Figurative?
When studying end-time events, it is important to make a distinction between descriptions that appear to be literal and those that are obviously figurative. Literal prophecies will occur exactly as described. Figurative prophecies will also occur, but they may not be obvious on the surface. As a general guideline when studying end-time events, assume that all descriptions are literal unless the context insists upon a figurative understanding.
It is also important to distinguish between two types of literal descriptions. The first type of literal event includes descriptions of what will be observable on earth. For example, the Abomination of Desolation (Mat. 24:14), the signs in the sun, moon, and stars (Mat. 24:29), and the construction of an image of the Beast (Rev. 13: 14-15) are all literal events. All of these will be observable from an earthly vantage point.
The second type of literal event includes those that take place in the spiritual or heavenly realm. On the surface, these may appear to be symbolic since they describe strange events and creatures. Even though these are literal events, they will not necessarily be observed on earth exactly as described. Examples of these types of descriptions include the four creatures around the throne of God (Rev. 4:6-8) and the angels pouring out the bowls containing plagues (Rev. 15:6-8; 16:1). People on earth will not see the angels as they pour out the bowls, but they will see the results.
Examples of descriptions that appear to be figurative include: the harlot (probably representing all false religion, Rev. 17:1-6) and the wine and winepress representing God's punishment of the ungodly during the Wrath of God (Rev. 14:9-10; 19:15). The exact interpretation of a figurative description is sometimes difficult to determine.
The Beast will probably be a literal person (see page 13). In Daniel, the organization or kingdom from which he comes is also figuratively described as a beast (Dan. 7:7-11). In this description, the Beast (i.e., the Antichrist) is described figuratively as a little horn that is part of this beast kingdom.
Problems develop when too many end-time events are thought to be symbolic. Problems also occur if all end-time descriptions are taken as literal. Generally, it is best to consider end-time descriptions as literal (either spiritual or observable on earth) unless the context definitely indicates that a figurative understanding is necessary.
It is important to remain open to other possible interpretations of end-time descriptions. Many of these events may occur in several different ways while still meeting the prophetic requirements. Often, prophecy is used to show us when we reach a certain point rather than to inform us of what to expect next. For example, the Abomination of Desolation is used to signal that the Great Tribulation has started rather than providing much information about what will happen (Mat. 24:15, 21). In Daniel's day, these prophecies were sealed so that he could not understand them (Dan. 12:8-9) . However, as we get nearer to the time of the end, more will be opened to our understanding.
Using This Book to Study End Times
Much of the information in the following chapters is presented in a consistent format to aid research and study of end-time events. A chapter will usually begin with an overall description of the covered event to aid in obtaining an overall understanding of the activity and significance of the event. Following the description, specific information related to the event is provided in the summary format shown below. This is most helpful when attempting to determine specific information about the event such as how long it lasts and what occurs prior to it. Several appendices are included in the back of this book to provide additional details on certain aspects of End Times for those who desire more details. Finally, an index is included for assistance in locating specific information.
The information format used to summarize the chapters covering major end-time events is as follows.
Term Definition: Provides a definition of the term or event.
Significance: Explains the major importance of this event.
Source: Explains who is behind the event or the cause of it.
Length: Explains the length of the event or period.
Events Prior: Lists events immediately preceding this event or time period.
Events: Explains the major events that take place as part of the event.
God During: Lists God’s activities during the event.
Christians During: Lists the activities and conditions of Christians during this event.
Satan During: Lists Satan’s activities during the event
Beast During: Lists the Beast’s activities during the event.
Non-Christians During: Lists activities and conditions of non-Christians during the event.
Events Following: Lists events immediately following this event or time period.
Scripture references: Bible passages related to this person, time, or event.
Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. NKJV indicates quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. KJV indicates quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible. Numbers associated with Greek (italic) or Hebrew (upright) words refer to the corresponding words in the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D.
Please make copies of this book to give to your friends. (A searchable and printable version in Adobe Acrobat format is available for download.) Your comments and suggestion are also welcome. Thank you for helping others to understand the Bible teachings on the End Times.
God bless you.
If you have questions or comments, please contact Sonny Bowman.