This post is the third in a series on how biblical prophecy relates to the United States of America in 2021. The first post described how the election of a Democratic president and Congress will further the implementation of a radical leftist agenda that is diametrically opposed to biblical Christianity. The second post provided a basic introduction to biblical prophecy, which is necessary due to the lack of teaching on biblical prophecy in churches today. There is still one more background issue to address before addressing directly the subject of the United States in biblical prophecy. This is the question of whether we are living in the end times today, that is, whether we are living in a period relatively close in time to the second coming of Jesus Christ, and to the seven-year tribulation period which will precede His coming. The tribulation period begins with the rapture of the church, an event in which Christian believers will be removed from the earth. While there is no calendar date for the rapture in Bible prophecy, the Bible does provide enough specificity about the world of the end times to allow us to know when we are living in the end times, i.e., when the rapture and the tribulation period are relatively close in time. In fact, world events are indeed beginning to line up with the Bible’s description of the end times, with prophecies that have already been fulfilled or that are in the process of being fulfilled, although the world still has not reached the state in which it is found during the tribulation period.
The most salient feature of the world of the end times is the regathering of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and the reestablishment of the state of Israel. The reestablishment of the state of Israel is a critical stage in the development of God’s prophetic plan, because redemptive history is centered around the nation of Israel (the Jews). Jesus originally came to offer the messianic kingdom to the Jewish people, but the vast majority of Jews rejected Jesus as their promised Messiah and King, crucifying Him and persecuting His church. Jerusalem was destroyed in judgment in AD 70, and most of the Jewish people were dispersed from their land. The church, which is a non-national entity, is an interim stage in God’s plan until Israel again becomes the people of God spiritually as well as physically (Romans 11).
The Bible is very clear that at the end of the Church Age and during the tribulation period, the Jews will be living in the land of Israel. During the first half of the tribulation period, Moses and Elijah will return to earth and prophesy in Jerusalem, in order to call the nation of Israel to repentance and to belief in Jesus as the Messiah (Rev 11:1-13; cf. Mal 4:4-6; Matt 17:11; Mark 9:12). An Israeli state makes a seven-year pact with the antichrist at the start of the tribulation period, as described in Daniel 9:27. That verse also states that the antichrist will break his pact with Israel at the midpoint of the seven years, and will turn against the Jews. A number of passages describe how the antichrist will invade the land of Israel at the midpoint of the tribulation, with many Jews fleeing to a place of refuge east of Israel at that time (Dan 11:41; Matt 24:15-16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20-21; Rev 11:7-8; 12:6, 13-17). Daniel 9:27 describes the system of sacrifices functioning in a Jewish temple in Jerusalem until the midpoint of the tribulation period, at which point the antichrist will set up his own image in the Holy of Holies and will demand to be worshiped as God (Matt 24:15; Mark 13:14; 2 Thess 2:4; Rev 13:14-15). At the very end of the tribulation period, all the armies of the world will be gathered together in the land of Israel, in a desperate attempt by Satan and the antichrist to kill all the Jews before Jesus returns; however, Jesus will return and wipe out these armies before they can accomplish their purpose (cf. Mic 4:11; Zech 12:2-3, 9; 14:1-3; Rev 14:20; 16:16; 19:19-21).
The return of Israel to their land at the end of the age is not just an accident of history; rather, God has promised to bring Israel back to their land in the end. The Bible is clear that there is an eschatological regathering of Israel while the Jews are still in a state of unbelief, to prepare the nation for its spiritual restoration. Various passages describe this, all of them disputed yet no less authoritative for this reason; probably the clearest are Ezekiel 34–37 and Hosea 3:4-5. (For details, see the comments in my Interpretive Guide to the Bible on these passages.) It is important to emphasize that God has restored Israel to the land for His own name’s sake, rather than because of their obedience. God’s plan is for the Jewish people to be firmly established in the land with their own state before the tribulation period begins; then for the nation of Israel to turn to the Lord and be purified during the tribulation period, and for the Lord to return and set up His kingdom at the end of this period. The restoration of Israel to the land is necessary as a precursor to the nation’s spiritual restoration. For the Jews to be reached and converted en masse, it is necessary for Jewish culture and settlement to be concentrated in the land promised by God to Israel’s patriarchs, coupled with a renewed passion for Jewish identity and nationalism. Large numbers of secular Jews would probably lose their Jewish identity were it not for the state of Israel. The restoration of a Jewish state is also necessary to set up the events of the tribulation period, including the pact between the antichrist and the Jewish state, and the abomination of desolation in the temple. The modern state of Israel recently celebrated its 73rd anniversary. It has also now been more than 50 years since Israel gained full control over the city of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. In spite of Satan’s ongoing efforts to foil the fulfillment of prophecy by driving Israel out of the land, the state of Israel has continually grown stronger and more deeply rooted.
Several aspects of biblical prophecy regarding Israel remain to be fulfilled in this age. First, Ezekiel 34–36 describes the Jews living in the mountains of Israel and taking vengeance on “Edom,” which is apparently a reference to the Palestinians. This indicates that after Israel finally subdues its enemies, the West Bank will be fully annexed to the state of Israel and will be filled with Jewish-majority cities. Second, biblical prophecy is clear that there will be a rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem, presumably where the Dome of the Rock now stands. This temple functions as a place of (illegitimate) Jewish sacrifice throughout the first half of the tribulation period (Dan 9:27), while throughout the second half it will be the place where the antichrist sets up his throne and his image to be worshiped as a god (2 Thess 2:4; Rev 13:14-15; 16:10). While some Jews have made serious plans for the construction of the third temple, they have not yet had the opportunity to begin construction work. Third, while Ezekiel 37 portrayed the restored nation of Israel as a mighty army, Ezekiel 38:8, 11-13 prophesies that by the time of the tribulation period Israel will dwell securely, without walls and apparently without a military. While Israel has recently made peace with several Arab countries, it still faces severe security challenges. The coming of peace between Israel and the Arab world is also indicated by prophecies which state that when the antichrist invades Israel at the midpoint of the tribulation period, many Jews will find refuge in modern-day Jordan, which the antichrist will be unable to conquer (Daniel 11:41; Matt 24:15-16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20-21; Rev 12:6, 13-17). Fourth, since the antichrist will make a treaty with Israel at the start of the tribulation period, this indicates that Israel will develop closer ties to the European Union over time, with a long-term goal of joining the EU.
A second key feature of the world of the end times that Bible teachers have long recognized is the universal use of an electronic payment system, and very likely a universal digital currency, all controlled by a central authority. The main indicator of this is the description of the mark of the beast (antichrist) in Revelation 13:16-18 (see also Zechariah 5:5-11). The mark of the beast which is imposed globally at the midpoint of the tribulation period is not just an externally visible tattoo or brand with the antichrist’s name or number. It also contains the personal identifier of each individual who has the mark, so as to identify that person as a worshiper of the antichrist. This identifier or computer chip is connected to the electronic payment system that is used for all financial transactions, so that those who do not have the mark are completely excluded from the global financial system and cannot buy or sell. The mark is imposed throughout the entire world, excluding no one except those who refuse to worship the antichrist. This necessitates global economic development, with even the poorest parts of the world possessing the necessary infrastructure to make and receive electronic payments. Already cell phones and the internet are available in the remotest and poorest parts of the world, though many people still lack access to technology. The world is also on track to develop a universal method of electronic financial transactions, replacing paper money and coinage. Notably, the United States is making plans to release a digital currency, by which means all financial transactions will be processed directly by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. This will give the U.S. government a record every financial transaction—there will be no private transactions—and, much more significantly, will give the government the power to block financial transactions. However, these things are still in the planning stages; there is not as yet a single global currency or a global standard of financial transactions. Thus, while it is obvious that the world is being prepared for the mark of the beast, the mark could not be implemented at the present time.
Third, pretribulationists have long recognized that the antichrist’s base of power consists of a confederation of ten countries and their rulers (Dan 2:42; 7:7-8, 24; Rev 13:1; 17:3, 12-13), in which the antichrist emerges as an eleventh ruler (he is probably the commander of the joint military force), though he will overthrow three rulers during the first half of the tribulation period and will seize power over the entire confederation. The book of Daniel presents the antichrist’s empire as an eschatological form of the Roman Empire (Dan 2:40-44; 7:7-8, 23-24), and Daniel 9:26 specifically identifies the Romans as the antichrist’s ancestral people. The major opponents of the antichrist from the midpoint of the tribulation period onward are armies from the north, south, and east (Dan 11:40-44), so it is apparent that the antichrist’s base of power is in the west (in relation to Israel), i.e., in Europe. The establishment of the European Union as a confederation of the countries of Europe is therefore a step toward the establishment of the antichrist’s kingdom. From the collapse of the Roman Empire until the collapse of the Soviet Union, Europe was politically fractured. However, the European Union has successfully joined together nearly all the countries of Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the border of the old Soviet Union. Even after the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (which is likely temporary), the EU still contains about 440 million people, making it a significant world power. However, while the EU is a precursor to the antichrist’s kingdom, it has not yet taken the form in which the antichrist’s kingdom is described in prophecies of the tribulation period. In accordance with biblical prophecy, we can expect that in the future the countries of the EU will (1) develop stronger ties, including a military alliance; and (2) consolidate into a confederation of ten countries or administrative units.
Prophecies of the tribulation period also imply that there will be a new arms race and a great expansion of the world’s militaries in the runup to the tribulation period. The world’s political entities and military forces will also be grouped into distinct regional alliances. Ezekiel 38–39 describes the invasion of Israel by a huge, fully-mechanized military force led by Russia but also including the armies of other countries of the former Soviet Union, Iran, and some African countries. Revelation 9:16 describes a fully mechanized army from South, East, and Southeast Asia numbering 200 million. The antichrist’s European armies are clearly very substantial as well. Even at the end of the tribulation period, after seven years of severe plagues and deadly wars, there are still so many soldiers gathered for the final battle that they fill the entire land of Israel from north to south and west to east, for a length of 184 miles (Rev 14:20). At present, Russia, China, and India are aggressively modernizing and expanding their militaries, and many smaller countries are doing the same. However, prophecy shows that this is still just the beginning stages of what will be an unprecedented buildup of the world’s military forces.
A final often-noted characteristic of the last days is that they are a time of great spiritual darkness and a great worldwide rebellion against God. There are numerous passages in the New Testament that refer to a time of apostasy in the last days that was still future at the time when the New Testament was written, and therefore cannot be understood as a reference to the entire Church Age (2 Thess 2:3; 2 Tim 3:1-9, 13; 2 Pet 3:3-6; Jude 17-19). The last days will feature not just unprecedented opposition to God in the unbelieving world, but also a falling away within the church (Rom 11:19-22; 1 Tim 4:1-3; 2 Tim 4:3-4; Rev 3:14-22). When the entire unbelieving world worships the antichrist and takes his mark in the face of extraordinary signs from heaven, this is the result and culmination of an unprecedented worldwide rebellion against God that began well before the start of the tribulation period.
Christians who believe in the pretribulational rapture of the church have long recognized parallels between the modern world and the world of the tribulation period described in biblical prophecy. However, some pretribulationists reject out of hand the very possibility of recognizing these parallels, on the basis of a misleadingly-named doctrine called “imminence,” referring to the imminence of the rapture. The rapture of the church is an event which occurs at the start of the tribulation period (concurrent with the start of the antichrist’s pact with Israel), and is a distinct event from the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation period. Although the word “imminent” means “about to happen,” the theological doctrine of imminence strongly asserts that the rapture may not be about to happen—the rapture could still be thousands of years away. The doctrine of imminence asserts that it is impossible to know whether we are living close in time to the rapture. Imminence is thus a common objection to the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy, since a literal interpretation of prophecy reveals clear parallels between the world of the end times and the world in which we live. It should be noted that imminence is a theological objection, not an exegetical objection, which puts the cart before the horse—theology ought to be derived from exegesis, and not vice versa. It is easy to show that the Bible contains prophecies of many events in the Church Age, which implies that the rapture could not occur or have been considered imminent before the fulfillment of these prophecies (see Dan 9:26; Matt 13:24-43; 22:7; 24:2; Mark 4:26-29; Luke 19:11-27, 43-44; John 21:18-19; Acts 1:8; 9:15-16; 11:28; 16:9-10; 18:9-11; 20:22-23; 21:11; 22:21; 23:11; 1 Cor 4:9; Phil 1:20-26; 2 Tim 4:6-7; 2 Pet 1:14; Revelation 2–3). It is also easy to show that passages which state that no one can know the day or hour of the Lord’s coming are, in context, references to the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation period, and are not references to the rapture of the church (Matt 24:36–25:13; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:35-48; 21:34-36; 1 Thess 5:2; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 16:15). However, the doctrine of imminence deserves a more extended discussion, and so will be the subject of a future post.
This post has described how various events and entities of the modern world are beginning to line up with biblical descriptions of the tribulation period. The world in which we live is still different in some ways from the world described in the tribulation period, but there are elements of our world that are unmistakable elements of the last days. One of these elements is the rise of a great superpower that dominates the world of the end times in every respect—a cultural and economic superpower unlike any the world has ever seen before, which becomes responsible for the moral and spiritual corruption of the entire world. In my next post, I will make a case for identifying the entity called Babylon the Great in Revelation 17:1–19:5 with the United States of America. Like the other prophecies of the end times noted in this post, the Untied States already has many key characteristics of this prophesied entity which make the identification unmistakable, but there are also some key aspects of the Bible’s description of Babylon the Great that have yet to be fulfilled—especially a murderous worldwide campaign of persecution against Christians which is driven by Babylon the Great (Rev 17:6; 18:20, 24; 19:2).