The 35 Most Asked Prophecy Questions – Program 1
| September 23, 2013 |
|By: Dr. Renald Showers; ©1995|
|God never does anything without a purpose, so what possible purpose could there be for events such as those the Bible says will take place during the time of tribulation?|
Why Has God Scheduled Future Events for Planet Earth?
- Dr. John Ankerberg: We are very pleased to have Dr. Renald Showers, who has served on the faculties of Lancaster Bible College, Moody Bible Institute, and at the Philadelphia College of the Bible, with us today to answer questions on prophecy. Dr. Showers, let’s begin by having you tell us, why has God scheduled future events for planet earth?
- Dr. Renald Showers: Why has God scheduled future events for planet earth? Why will there be a seven-year period of Tribulation, followed by the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus back to this planet, and then His thousand-year reign over the earth? There has to be a reason for these future events because God never does anything without a purpose. But in order to understand why things will take place the way they will near the end of time, we really have to go back to the beginning of time and see some significant things that transpired then. Because what will happen in the future is based squarely upon significant things that happened near the beginning.
- Back in eternity past God determined to have a kingdom over which He could rule as a sovereign King. That kingdom was to be known as the Kingdom of God. And God determined to create two major kinds of personal subjects to serve Him in His kingdom. First, He created an enormous host of beings that the Bible calls angels. The Apostle John in Revelation 5:11 tells us that he saw literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of holy angels surrounding the presence of God in Heaven, probably billions of these spirit beings, called angels, that God created to serve Him primarily in the heavenly realm of His universal kingdom. And then God created planet earth according to Genesis 1.
- After He created the earth, He brought into existence the second kind of personal subject to serve Him in His Kingdom and that was man. God created the first two human beings, Adam and Eve, and He placed them in a perfect environment here on planet earth. And according to Genesis 1:26, when God created man, He gave man dominion over everything that God had created and placed here on this planet. Now, the fact that God did that tells us what the original form of government was as ordained by God for planet earth. The original form of government is that which is called a theocracy.
- Now, you’re familiar, of course, with the term democracy, which literally means “rule of the people.” The word “theocracy” means “rule of God.” And if you were to look up that term in a good English dictionary, you would find it defined something like this: “A theocracy is a form of government in which the rule of God is administered by a representative.” You see, it was God’s intention that Adam be His representative, administering God’s rule on His behalf over this earthly province of God’s universal Kingdom.
- When we come to the last verse of Genesis 1, we find that after God had finished creating His Kingdom, He looked at everything that He had made and God’s evaluation was, it was all very good. But tragically, it would not remain that way very long.
- Sometime after God completed the creation of His Kingdom, the most intelligent, most powerful, highest ranking angel whom God had made, an angel who according to Ezekiel 28 was the anointed cherub who covered the unique presence of God in Heaven, that exalted angel was lifted up in pride over how great he was. And in his pride, he determined that he wanted to be just like God. We’re told this in Isaiah 14 around verses 12 to 14 where he said, “I will make myself like the Most High.” This exalted angel saw that God was the ultimate sovereign One of the universe. He wanted to be the ultimate sovereign One of the universe. He saw that God had a kingdom over which He ruled as a sovereign King. He wanted to have a kingdom over which he could rule as a sovereign king. He saw that God had both angels and human subjects serving Him in His Kingdom. If he were to be like God, he, too, had to have both angels and human subjects serving him in his kingdom. But this angel had a problem which God did not have, and that’s the fact that since he was only a creature and not the Creator, he did not have the ability to create other angels and human beings. So the most he could hope for was to persuade God’s angels and human beings to join him in his revolt against God.
- By the way, when this angel began this rebellion, God changed his name to Satan, which means “enemy” or “adversary,” because that’s exactly what this exalted angel had now become: the great enemy or adversary of God.
- Satan made his approach, first, to the other angels. And the Scriptures make it quite clear that he was successful in persuading a sizeable amount of God’s angels to join him in his rebellion against God. And so there was a fall of some of the angels that took place away from God. One of the ways we know that is the fact that several times the Bible refers to “the devil and his angels.” For example, the Lord Jesus, in Matthew 25:41 talked about “the lake of fire which has already been prepared for the devil and his angels.”
- Well, now that he had angels in his kingdom, Satan then decided to make his approach to man. And we have the record of this in Genesis 3. Angels have the ability to take upon themselves any shape or form or size that they need in order to carry out a task, and so Satan took upon himself the deceptive form of a snake and he entered into man’s perfect environment on earth and tragically was able to persuade Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, to join him in his rebellion against God. And so the fall of man took place away from God.
- Now, if we are to understand the purpose of future events, we have to note several tragic consequences of man joining Satan’s rebellion against God. The first tragic consequence is the fact that the theocracy was lost from planet earth. Remember, theocracy is a form of government in which the rule of God is administered by a representative. And now that Adam, God’s representative, had made the fateful choice to join God’s enemy, Satan, in his rebellion against God, God lost His representative and therefore the theocracy was lost from planet earth altogether.
- A second tragic consequence of man joining Satan’s rebellion is the fact that Satan was now able to usurp the rule of the world system away from God and the Scriptures make it quite clear that Satan and his forces have been dominating and controlling the world system ever since. In fact, they’re doing so even right now in this day and age in which we are living.
- Several things in the Word of God make it very clear that Satan was able to usurp the rule of the world system away from God. For example, in the Gospel of Luke 4:5-6, where Luke records Satan tempting Jesus while Jesus was here in His first coming, we find that one form of the temptation was that he took Jesus to the top of a mountain. And this is what we read (Luke 4:5): “And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, showed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” Notice, Satan had the authority to cause all the kingdoms of the world system to pass before the Lord Jesus in visionary form. Then verse 6: “And the devil said unto Him, ‘All this power will I give thee and the glory of them for that is delivered unto me.’“ Literally, “It has been handed over to me. And to whomsoever I will, I give it.” Please note, Satan said to the Lord Jesus, “I have the authority to turn over the rule of the whole world system to whomever I wish,” and he told Jesus why he had the authority: “for it has been handed over to me.” Who handed over the rule of the world system to God’s enemy, Satan? Adam did, because Adam was the one to whom God originally gave that rule. And whether Adam recognized it or not, when he made that fateful choice to join Satan’s rebellion against God, he was thereby handing over the rule of the whole world system to God’s enemy, Satan.
- This is why the Lord Jesus, on more than one occasion while He was here in His first coming, referred to Satan as “the prince of this world,” literally, “the ruler of this world.” One place where Jesus made such a reference was in John 14:30. And this is why the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 4:4 referred to Satan as “the god of this age.” He’s the one who controls the whole spirit and temperament of the present age in which we are living.
- This is also why John in 1 John 5:19 very literally said, “The whole world lies in the wicked one.” And by the way, this is why James in James 4:4 warns Christians that we had better not be a friend of the world system in which we live because whoever makes himself the friend of the godless world system, thereby becomes an enemy of God. The reason is, God’s enemy is the one who is dominating and controlling that world system today.
- So the theocracy was lost and Satan was able to usurp the rule of the world system away from God.
- But there was a third tragic consequence of man joining Satan’s revolt against God back there in the Garden of Eden, and that is the fact that all of nature was put under a curse. In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve had fallen away from God, and God came down to the earth to confront Adam, Eve and Satan with their roles in the fall of man, this is what God said to Adam: “Cursed is the ground for your sake. From now on, it will be by the sweat of your brow that you will till the ground to grow food to sustain life.” It’s my understanding that through that curse that was put upon the ground, the fertility level of the soil of planet earth was radically reduced from what it was when God originally created it. And as a result, it would be much more difficult for man to grow food or crops to sustain life here on planet earth. Even animal nature was radically changed from that curse. There are implications in the Bible to the effect that before the Fall of man, all animals were completely tame and were vegetarian in diet. But now that the curse of man’s sin came upon them, animals became wild and many of them became carnivorous or flesh-eating, tearing at each other’s flesh as a source of food. This is why the Apostle Paul in Romans 8 around the middle of that chapter says that “all of creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own choosing.” Nature didn’t ask to be put under this curse, but it was subjected to it nonetheless. And Paul goes on to say that “the whole of creation groans and travails in pain” and can hardly wait until the ultimate day of redemption when the curse of man’s sin will be lifted off of nature.
- Well, now that Satan had both angels and humans as subjects within his kingdom, his kingdom was established and functioning and so now there were two major spiritual kingdoms functioning in the universe: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. And since Satan’s goal was to become the ultimate sovereign one of the universe and God was already that ultimate Sovereign One, and since there can only be one ultimate sovereign one, this meant that there was going to be all-out war. And Satan, throughout the course of history, has been working to try to overthrow God as the Sovereign Lord of the universe and make himself that sovereign lord. And may I point out to you that warfare that began back near the beginning of time has continued on down through the ages of time. It’s going on around us in the world today, and as we shall see, it’s going to go on into the future. And it is that continuing warfare between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan that provides us with the key for understanding the ultimate purpose of history. Satan’s purpose is to unseat God as the Sovereign Lord of the universe and make himself that sovereign lord in place of God. But God’s purpose for history and therefore the ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself by demonstrating the fact that He alone is the sovereign God of this universe.
- Now, the Scriptures indicate that in order for God to accomplish that purpose, there are three significant things God must do before the history of this world comes to an end. Number one, God must crush His enemy Satan and get rid of him and his kingdom rule and his forces from this planet altogether. Since this earth started out without Satan and his forces controlling the world system, but then Satan was able to usurp the rule of the world system away from God through the Fall of man, if God doesn’t get rid of Satan and his rule from planet earth before the history of this earth comes to an end, then God ends up defeated by His enemy Satan within the scope of this earth’s history. God must crush Satan and get rid of him and his kingdom rule from planet earth altogether.
- The second thing God must do is this. After He does crush Satan, God must restore His theocracy back to this planet in which once again God will have a man, an Adam, as His representative administering His rule over this entire earth. And the Word of God makes it very clear that God has such a man. His name is Jesus Christ. And this is why the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:45 calls Jesus “the last Adam.” You see, the first Adam lost the theocracy for God by joining Satan’s revolt against God. But Jesus Christ, in His glorious Second Coming back to planet earth after the seven-year Tribulation, will return as the last Adam to restore God’s theocracy and then, as His representative, to administer God’s rule over this entire earth for the last great age of world history that is called “The Millennium.”
- May I point out to you, this is one of the reasons, not the only one, but one of the major reasons why the Incarnation of Jesus Christ was absolutely essential. One reason, obviously, was so that He could die as our substitute on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for our sins. But another reason is, so that in His Second Coming, He can return to planet earth as a man, as an Adam, to function as God’s representative administering His rule. I would like to challenge you sometime to look in the Gospels at the places where Jesus referred to His Second Coming, and almost invariably, He calls Himself “the Son of man” at His Second Coming. He’ll still be the Son of God, absolute Deity, but He’s emphasizing His humanity in His Second Coming because He’s returning as the last Adam to restore God’s theocracy.
- But then the third thing God must do to fulfill His purpose for history is this: when He does restore that theocracy through His Son, Jesus Christ, God must lift the curse of man’s sin off of nature and restore nature back to the way it was before the Fall of man took place. Now, how will God accomplish these three things?
- How will He accomplish the first thing, crushing Satan and getting rid of him and his kingdom rule from planet earth altogether? Well, He’ll accomplish that first thing through the combination of the seven-year Tribulation period and Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. When you study Revelation chapters 6-18, which cover the major events of the future seven-year Tribulation period, you will find that throughout that seven-year span of time, God will pour out three series of judgments here on planet earth. First, there will be seven seal judgments. Then, seven trumpet judgments. And finally, seven bowl or vial judgments. Why is God pouring out these judgments upon the earth during the seven-year Tribulation period? The reason is this: this is His means of beginning to systematically attack and tear down or crush Satan’s kingdom rule here on planet earth.
- Let me read to you a very significant thing that the Apostle John recorded for us by revelation of God in the book of Revelation 11:15. John is recording here a significant thing that will transpire when the seventh trumpet judgment will be unleashed on planet earth. Now, keep in mind again, there will have already been seven seal judgments and six trumpet judgments. So this is the last of the second series of judgments. And if we could read on beyond chapter 11 of the book of Revelation, we would find that the seventh trumpet consists of or contains within itself the whole third and final series of judgments—the seven bowls or vials are wrapped up in the seventh trumpet. That’s very significant because that means that when the seventh trumpet is sounded and that judgment unleashed upon the earth, that will begin the final series of judgments which will culminate with the Second Coming of Christ and the ending of Satan’s rule on planet earth.
- In light of that, here’s what John tells us in Revelation 11:15: “And the seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.’“ Does that sound familiar? Handel’s Messiah. And it’s from this particular passage that Handel derived that tremendous refrain. Bless your hearts! Do you realize what that is? That’s a tremendous cry of victory! God’s creatures in heaven, when they see God unleashing the last series of judgments which will end His enemy Satan’s rule on planet earth, they get so excited in anticipation of what this means that they can’t hold in their excitement. And they cry forth that tremendous expression of victory: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. And He shall reign forever and ever.” It’s almost as they say, “Finally, after God in His sovereignty, for His own purposes that only He can understand, has allowed His enemy and His enemy’s forces to dominate this world that God created for ages, God is finally bringing Satan’s rule to an end. And God and His Messiah, His Christ, are going to take back the rule of the earth for the honor and the glory of God. So God, through the seven-year Tribulation period, will be systematically attacking and tearing down Satan’s kingdom rule through these three series of judgments.
Christ Returning to Earth as a Victorious Conqueror Who Crushes Satan
- So, immediately after the Tribulation, the Lord Jesus as the last Adam will come out of Heaven in His glorious Second coming, this time down to planet earth to take back the rule of the earth on behalf of God. And so in chapter 19 of Revelation, John records the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus and he sees heaven open and Jesus comes riding out of heaven on the back of a white horse. Now, in John’s day, in that part of the world, a rider on a white horse symbolized a victorious conqueror. So that when Jesus will come out of heaven in His Second Coming on a white horse, He’s returning to the earth as God’s victorious conqueror to finish the job of crushing Satan and getting rid of him and his kingdom rule from this planet altogether. John saw, down on planet earth, pitted against the Lord Jesus Satan’s ultimate man, the Antichrist, a false religious leader under Satan’s direction, the false prophet, the rulers and the armies of all the world gathered together in the land of Israel and they’re gathered there for one purpose: to try to prevent the Second Coming of Jesus Christ from taking place here on planet earth. Satan realizes that if Jesus gets back here, it’ll be all over for him. And so he’s played a role in pulling all the armies and rulers of the nations of the world together to the land of Israel to try to prevent Christ from coming back.
- He knows, according to Zechariah 14 around verses 2 and 3, that the first place that Jesus’ feet will touch down on the earth will be on the Mount of Olives just outside of Jerusalem. So that’s why Satan gathers the armies there into Israel around Jerusalem to try to prevent Christ from coming. And John indicates that the Lord Jesus will have the Antichrist and the false prophet removed from the earth, cast into the eternal lake of fire where they’ll be tormented day and night under the judgment of God, and then he sees the Lord Jesus destroying the rulers and the armies of all these godless nations that are there. So there, Jesus crushes Satan’s forces.
- Then, in Revelation 20:1-3, John saw an angel come down from heaven, binding Satan with a chain. Satan is removed from the earth and is cast into the bottomless pit or the abyss where he will be confined or imprisoned by God for the next one thousand years.
- In Isaiah 24, at the end of that chapter, Isaiah received revelation to the effect that at that same time, all of the demons or evil angels will also be cast into that same pit and imprisoned so that you see that through this seven-year Tribulation period and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus, Satan and all of his forces will be crushed and will be removed from planet earth altogether and will not have one influence of any kind whatsoever on the earth throughout the last thousand-year period of world history, which is called “The Millennium.”
- So God will accomplish His first purpose, or I should say, the first thing He must do to fulfill His purpose for history, namely, crushing Satan and getting rid of him and his kingdom rule from planet earth, God will accomplish that through the combination of the seven-year Tribulation period and the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus.
- In our next session, we shall see how God will accomplish the second thing He must do to fulfill His purpose for history, namely, restoring the theocracy to planet earth, and then the third thing He must do to accomplish His purpose for history, and that is to lift the curse of man’s sin off of nature and restore nature back to the way it was, the way God created it at the beginning of time, and before the fall of man brought the curse of man’s sin upon nature.