And Then the End Shall Come, Part 2

By Francis Frangipane

It is no secret that we live in prophetic times. Besides two world wars, earthquakes and famines, our generation has seen the return of Israel to its land, and we have personally witnessed the spectacular increase of knowledge and travel (Dan. 12). Spiritual signs are like towns we pass through en route to a further destination: they reveal approximately where we are as we approach the Lord's return.

Yet it is important to not assume we are further than we are. There are two major end time signs that we have not yet passed through. I'd love to be wrong, but it's my opinion that those planning for an immediate rapture should probably unpack. For, while we should be dressed in readiness, the gospel of the kingdom has not been proclaimed worldwide (Matt. 24:14) nor has the Antichrist been revealed (2 Thess. 2:1-3). Both these things must occur before Christ returns.


The Great Harvest
Even while Jesus spoke of the signs of the end, He also warned that false movements would arise. He said, "See to it that you be not misled; for many will come in My name, saying . . . 'The time is at hand.'" He warned, "do not go after them" (Luke 21:8). Since the first century there have been many times when people were caught up in a false anticipation that the time was at hand. Even today, while we are certainly much further along than previous times, we simply have not yet entered the time of final things.

Consider The Message translation of Luke 21:8-9: "Watch out for the doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities claiming, 'I'm the One,' or, 'The end is near.' Don't fall for any of that. When you hear of wars and uprisings, keep your head and don't panic. This is routine history and no sign of the end."

In the sequence of final end time events, Jesus said that certain "things must take place first" (Lk 21:9). As we stated, a major reality that must come to pass is the worldwide proclamation of the gospel. Jesus said after the gospel is fully proclaimed, "then the end shall come" (Matt 24:14). Today this is the fervent revelation of the heart of God, and everything that is occurring in the earth today--the war on terrorism, globalization and the opening of closed nations--all must be interpreted in light of God's heart to bring redemption to the unsaved world.

The Antichrist
Another major sign preceding the Lord's return is the emergence of the Antichrist. While the spirit of the Antichrist has empowered "many antichrists" since the first century (1 John 2:18; 4:3), the Scriptures warn that a singular leader will arise. Paul tells us that the positioning of this individual on the world stage is itself another major sign of the Lord's return.

Listen to the apostle's warning. Remember, he is writing about the "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him." Yet, Paul expresses a deep concern that Christians would "not be quickly shaken from [their] composure or be disturbed . . . to the effect that the day of the Lord has come" (2 Thess. 2:1-2).

Paul is seeking to break the power of deception that was hitting the church in Thessalonica. He continues, "Let no one in any way deceive you, for [the day of the Lord] will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God" (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

Paul says plainly that the day of the Lord will not come unless the Antichrist is revealed. This will be the last major event that must occur before the return of the Lord. First, is the great, worldwide proclamation of the gospel and then, following or at least running concurrently, would be the emergence and international influence of the Antichrist. Somewhere in the sequence of these two events God will restore Israel to Himself; but that discussion is for another article.

Speculation abounds as to who the Antichrist is. Over the last 40 years, many have been identified as the "man of sin"--from John Kennedy, to the last three Popes, to Kissinger, Gorbachev and even recently Prince Charles, plus a dozen others in between. Yet, Paul describes the Antichrist as having certain, unmistakable characteristics. He "opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship." Then he actually sits in the "temple of God, displaying himself as being God."

Has anything even remotely similar occurred? No. This "son of destruction," with apparent godlike powers, will have a worldwide following (logically, at least 500 million followers). Has that happened yet? No. He'll provide a temporary, but false international peace. Did I miss something? Is the world finally at peace? The Antichrist will sit in the temple of God. Right now, the Al-Aksa Mosque is secured on the temple mount in Jerusalem. Beloved, there isn't even a temple where the Antichrist can sit.

A number of Christians have been convinced that the Euro, which is the currency being introduced in most of Europe, is the currency of the Antichrist. Yet God's word says "all" nations will be economically influenced by the Antichrist, not just little Europe. The fact is, China, North and South America, Russia, India, Africa and the Islamic world have absolutely no plans for the Euro. There is no worldwide currency, no mark of the beast.

The person described as the Antichrist in the Bible is just not here yet. Regardless of who informs you of their secret insights, that so and so is the Antichrist--whether it's the National Enquirer or your favorite Christian author--remember, the Antichrist, when he appears, will be unmistakable. The Jewish temple will be restored; a true international currency will be in place and there will be a worldwide movement following a leader who, with supernatural powers, calls himself God. You won't need the National Enquirer to point him out. He will be obvious to every true Christian. Whether you ascribe to a pre-, mid- or post-tribulation rapture of the church, the Antichrist must come first.

The Real Problem
In my thirty three years of ministry, I've often seen Christians excited about "end time" prophecies. Currently, a minor ripple of excitement is stirring regarding an "army from the north" prophecy that speaks of an attack against the USA. I first heard this prophecy in the early 1970s. Who is this army from the north? Canadians? Eskimos? Really, when Christians blindly accept, and then spread, these aberrant prophecies, it's like spraying the unsaved with "repellant."

In the seventies and eighties, many Christians (including yours truly) believed the Lord was coming soon. As a result, we Christians turned our back on our government and school systems. We abandoned our responsibility to be salt and light in the world, and then condemned the world for its lack of godliness. We were so eager for the Lord's return, that we accepted that only judgment awaited America and the rest of the world. As a result of believing a lie, we suffered spiritual paralysis, which allowed laws to be changed and our nation to slide into great perversion--all because we thought we were at the end of the age. What a travesty!

If the rapture of the church occurs tomorrow, wonderful! However, it is actually possible that this age won't end for hundreds of years. We need to pray, plan and act as though we could see several worldwide awakenings before Christ returns. I know I'm slaying some sacred cows here, but according to the Hebrew calendar, we are only at the year 5763. We have at least a couple hundred Hebrew years before we reach the year 6000 and, according to some interpretations, the beginning of the Millennium.

I'm saying all this, not to get us to become worldly, but to fully embrace God's call that we become Christlike. You see, if we accept that all that remains is the apostasy and then the rapture, we exempt ourselves from fasting and praying for our communities. If we have passed the season for revival, then why lay our lives down for cities and nations that God has no intention of redeeming? You see, we do need to recognize that, until the Lord comes, we are in the season of the harvest.

My friends, listen, missiologists tells us that, at current growth rates, there will be a billion new souls brought into the kingdom of God in the next 10 years. That is not a misprint. Jesus paid for them and God wants them in His kingdom. Do you think God is going to stop the harvest because of our ill-timed doctrines about the second coming? He will simply by-pass us and use others.

If we truly desire to accelerate Christ's return, then we must complete our part of the prophetic plan, which is to win the lost. If you are not praying for, and giving to, organizations that are training ministers for the great harvest, you might actually be delaying the Lord's return. It is time for laborers to be trained and sent. Every nation must hear the gospel and each soul written in the Lamb's book must be saved, and then the end shall come. 
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