The Time Draweth Near?

By John David Clark, Sr. - July, 1992

One evening just a few days before he died, Jesus sat on the mount of Olives with some of his closest disciples. They had come to ask him privately concerning the signs of the end of the world and of his return to earth. The scene is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There, with Peter, James, John, and Andrew, the Lord of heaven and earth quietly described the epochal events which would precede his return to earth and the end of the world. He concluded he discourse with this warning: "Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near. So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.... And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch." In addition to what Jesus told his disciples here concerning the end, we have the incomparable revelation which John was given while in exile on the island of Patmos. John wrote this vision, and we have it today as the last book in the Bible, Revelation. By comparing the events as John related them with the order of events which Jesus gave on the Mount of Olives we gain a clear perspective on the otherwise indiscernible future.

The Beginnings of Sorrow: The Four Horses

In Jesus' discourse, he distinguishes certain troubles as "the beginning of sorrows". They are: (1) the proliferation of false teachers who claim to be sent by Jesus, then (2) a dramatic increase in wars and rumors of wars, followed by (3) famines and other natural disasters on a scale not yet experienced on earth. In Revelation 6, which parallels all this, John sees (1) the spirit of false teaching riding a white horse, going forth to conquer, then (2) another spirit on a red horse that is sent from heaven to take peace from the earth. John's last horse was a pale horse ridden by a spirit named "Death" that will slay one fourth of the world's population by the plagues and natural disasters mentioned by Jesus.

We have not yet experienced all these first troubles, but we certainly have witnessed in this century (1) a multiplying of "Christian" faiths, an explosion of cults and a splintering of virtually every group which claims to be of Christ. The word, "Christ", means "anointed", and how many there now are who claim to be anointed, just as Jesus said! And we have moved beyond this first sign to the second (2), an era of unprecedented strife among nations. Has anyone ever witnessed such a breakup of nations and so many wars, great and small, which now are being fought out in every corner of the earth? Europe, South Africa, South America, and Asia. The United States itself is splintering along economic and ethnic lines. Following this terrible time of warfare is perhaps a world-wide system of rationing (John's third horse), then (3) a period of famine, incurable diseases, and strife which will reduce the world's population by one fourth (over 1.25 billion people at today's population level). Still, according to Jesus, "the end is not yet."

The Last 3 of the First 7 Plagues

After these four "beginnings of sorrows", comes both the greatest revival and the greatest persecution which the church has ever known. This is the time when "this gospel shall be preached in all the world", and it is the time when "many shall be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another" (Mt.24:10, 14). Heaven will receive a multitude of martyred saints so vast that John could not count them (Rev.7:9-14). However, the rapture of the members of the church who survive this "great tribulation" does not yet occurred. And as just reward for the slaughter of so many saints, God blackens the sun for a time, turns the moon a bloody color, and casts down the "stars of heaven" upon the earth (Mt.24:29; Rev.6:12-13). As in the days of the plagues of Egypt, when God's people suffered through the first of the plagues with the Egyptians, but were spared the harshest plagues at the end, so it is at the end of the world. These first terrors are experienced by all who live on earth, saint and sinner alike. But during the next group of plagues, the faithful in the church are protected.

The Seven Trumpets

John describes the next seven plagues in order, stating that each one is signaled by an angel blowing a trumpet. At the first trumpet, all green grass on earth and one third of all trees are destroyed. At the second, one third of the sea becomes blood, killing one third of all creatures in the sea and destroying one third of all sea-going vessels. At the third, a gigantic meteor strikes the earth, ruining one third of all the fresh water on the planet. At the fourth, an earth day becomes one-third shorter. This may be caused by the earth's rotation being accelerated, perhaps from the force of the blow from the giant falling "star". Isaiah, the ancient prophet of Israel, spoke of a day when the earth will "reel to and fro like a drunken man."

With the last three trumpets, God turns from natural disasters to use monstrous creatures which can put to shame the wildest imaginations of movie-makers. At the fifth trumpet, God brings out of "the bottomless pit" eerie creatures with scorpion-like stingers, with which they shall torment men five months. "And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it, and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them" (Rev.9:6). These creatures are commanded to hurt "only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads" (Rev.9:4). The seal of God, my friends, is the Holy Ghost, as Paul declared to the church at Ephesus (Eph.1:13). Do you have this seal, the seal which will protect you from the agony of this and the other plagues of the seven trumpets? If you do have this precious blessing, purchased by Jesus' sacrificial death, are you keeping it as the "pearl of great price" that it is, or are you neglecting this gift of God? Many treat the Holy Ghost as a spare tire, to be pulled out and used only in dire emergencies, but let me tell you plainly, my friend, if you're not riding on it everyday, you are already in deep trouble, even if you don't realize it. When those tormenting beasts are unleashed on this earth, what will our titles and reputations mean to them? Will they be impressed by our positions or claims of salvation? If they do not see the seal of God in our foreheads, it will do no good to wish we'd kept ourselves clean.

At the sixth trumpet, a two hundred million man army sets out on "horses", which resemble no horses I've ever seen. One-third of all humans are destroyed by these beasts, out of whose mouths proceeds "fire and smoke and brimstone" and whose tails were "like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt." During these days, God sends His mysterious "two witnesses" to preach the gospel to the Jews (Rev.11:1-13). These two prophets will have power from God to plague the earth, and will do so, making themselves very unpopular among men. When they are slain, the whole earth rejoices, leaving their bodies to lie in the streets of Jerusalem and sending gifts to one another in celebration of their deaths. After three days, they are brought to life and ascend into heaven, just before an earthquake strikes the area, killing seven thousand of Jerusalem's inhabitants.

At the seventh and last trumpet, strange and wondrous signs appear in heaven (Rev.12), and Satan launches his final, murderous assault on the church. He does so by giving his power, position, and authority to a man. About 2,500 years ago, Daniel spoke of this man as one who will be incomparably brilliant, and who would "wear out the saints" and "shall destroy the mighty and the holy people" (Dan.7:25; 8:23-24). Here, John states that it will be given to him "to make war with the saints and to overcome them" (Rev.13:7). The Bible refers to this great world ruler as "the Beast", but he will be human. What makes him beastly is his complete surrender to the evil wisdom and power of Satan. Not only will he rule the world, but the world will worship this man, being deluded into doing so by another man called "the False Prophet".

Throughout the Bible, you will find no religious figures among the heathen called a false prophet. Every false prophet in the Bible is a man or woman who belongs to God, but who has turned from His way (usually for money). In the Old Testament, only unfaithful Jewish religious leaders earned the title, "false prophet" (One exception is Balaam, a world-renowned prophet of God from Syria. He fell to the love of money). In the New Testament, "false apostles" are not heathen men proclaiming heathen gods. They are christian men who teach lies about Christ for money (e.g. 2Cor.11:13-15). Such will be the "false prophet" of the final days. This man will be a well-respected Holy Ghost baptized man who is backslidden in heart, though not in appearance. He will be a leader in the charismatic movement who has departed from the way of the Spirit for the sake of earthly gain. It will be this man who will be the prime motivator for the world to worship the Beast, and to cause "all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads, and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the Beast, or the number of his name" (Rev. 13:16-17). This is the final test for the church. Any man on earth who worships the Beast and receives his mark, including any church member who succumbs to the pressure, "The same tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.... And they have no rest day nor night...." (Rev.14:10-11).

When this trial which John viewed was ended, he wrote, "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man [Jesus], having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap, for the time is come for thee to reap" (Rev.14:14-15). This is the rapture of the church, which takes place, just as Paul said it would, "at the last trump" (1Cor.15:52).

So, it is not yet time for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Seeing that so many prophecies have yet to be fulfilled, it is puzzling why we hear so much preaching about Jesus coming at any moment. In fact, that is the message we hear virtually every time the subject is mentioned from a pulpit. Many times have I heard it said by radio ministers that all the signs which precede Jesus' coming have been fulfilled, and he may come any minute now, and I have to ask, "Then, why doesn't he?" It seems to me that if those men were sent from God, then Jesus would in fact come today, because they teach that the time for his coming is now.

This brings us full circle, to the sign which Jesus said would mark the very beginning of the end: false christs, or teachers who claim to be carrying Christ's message for the church. Jesus said, in Luke 21, that these false teachers would come, and that part of their message would be that it is time for Jesus to come back! When asked by his disciples concerning signs of the end, this was his response: Take heed that ye be not deceived, for many shall come in my name, saying, "I am Christ" [anointed], and "THE TIME DRAWETH NEAR". Go ye not therefore after them (Lk.21:8). So, not only is the "beginning of sorrows" marked by the coming of false teachers who claim an anointing from God, the message of these men includes the oft-heard phrase, "Jesus could come at any moment". Do not follow those men. The fact that they have arrived in such numbers shows only that we have entered into the general time of the last things. And the fact that they proclaim it is already time for Jesus to come merely marks them as the deceivers of whom Jesus spoke. We have much yet to suffer before the coming of our Lord. It is no time now to grow slack. As John's second horse wreaks its miserable havoc through the earth, removing peace from every quarter, we await the next two heavenly visitors, the mysterious red horse and then the pale horse, bringing such suffering and death as is unknown to human history. Jesus may not come today, but we are not promised tomorrow. It is still "appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment."

It is a good question to ask, "Are you ready for Jesus to come?", but it may be a more appropriate question to ask, "Are you ready to face the things which will befall this earth before he comes?" May God help us all to follow after the righteousness of Christ Jesus, and not to be misled by those who look and sound good, but who are not sent from God. It would be untrue for me to think, or to leave the impression that I think, I understand every item presented to us by John in Revelation or by Jesus and the prophets concerning the end. If I did understand all those things, I would say so, but I do not. Yet, as we draw nearer to the time of the end, I believe God is beginning to give us an understanding of the general order of events leading up to the return of our Lord, and we are passing it along to you.

All of us who have read attentively the book of Revelation have noticed one of the sternest warnings recorded in the Holy Scriptures, a warning from the mouth of Jesus himself. He told John to write, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life...." (Rev.22:18-19). In the study of the end times, we should never allow that warning to be far from our hearts. God bless you and keep you through all things, until the coming of the Lord.

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