Retrieved from: The Good News Magazine of Understanding
Article by Melvin Rhodes
Previous generations have thought that Jesus Christ would return in their lifetimes, but they were proven wrong. Many people alive today think that Christ’s return is imminent. Certainly, the Bible contains prophecies that could not have been fulfilled until this generation.
Shortly before His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ delivered a major prophecy of end-time events, recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. He was asked by His disciples: “When will these things be? And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew:24:3).
Jesus responded with a description of conditions and events that would lead up to His second coming. Moreover, He said that when these signs became evident, His return would occur within one generation (Matthew:24:34). Could this be that generation?
Throughout the nearly 2,000 years since Christ gave His prophecy, many have thought that theirs was the time of His return—and turned out to be wrong, of course. But interestingly, there are a number of prophecies in the Bible that could not be fulfilled untilour modern era, the post–World War II period.
1. The human race would have the ability to exterminate itself
In Matthew:24:22, describing world conditions prior to His second coming, Jesus said that “if that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive; but for the sake of God’s chosen it will be cut short” (Revised English Bible).
The main message that Jesus Christ brought was of the coming Kingdom of God. This is described as “the gospel” (Mark:1:14). Gospel means “good news.” While some of the prophecies concerning events prior to the establishment of the Kingdom can seem negative, we should always keep in mind that the central focus of Bible prophecy is thegood news (gospel) of the coming Kingdom of God.
Matthew:24:22 shows us that if Jesus Christ does not intervene in world affairs, the human race will be faced with extinction. It’s crucial to note that humanity has had the capability for self-annihilation for only a little more than 50 years, since both the United States and the Soviet Union developed and stockpiled hydrogen bombs and the world had to learn to live with “mutually assured destruction.”
At that time there were only three nuclear powers (Britain being the other). By the middle of the 1960s France and China had joined the nuclear club. Today at least eight nations have nuclear warheads and the number looks set to increase with a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
Of course, the more nuclear powers we have in the world, the more likely it is that someone will use this deadly force for evil.
Although international attention has been focused on the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran during the last few years, little attention has been given to the possibility of some or all of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of radical Islamists.
During the ongoing crisis in Pakistan, the Taliban and al-Qaeda and their sympathizers have steadily gained more power, territory and influence, making nuclear terrorism more likely. Consider the consequences for the rest of the world if Osama bin Laden (or others like him) had access to nuclear weapons!
Meanwhile, Russia and China are determinedly flexing their military muscles, raising fears of a return to Cold War–era tensions.
The good news in all this is that Christians have an assurance that Jesus Christ will intervene to save mankind from annihilation. This prophecy could not be fulfilled until man had the potential for self-extinction through weapons of mass destruction. Again,only in the last 50 years has this become possible.
2. A Jewish homeland had to be reestablished in the Middle East
Geopolitically, the central focus of end-time events is Jerusalem and its environs, what many people refer to as the Holy Land.
Luke 21 is a parallel chapter to Matthew 24. Notice Luke’s account of Christ’s long prophecy that answered the disciples’ questions: “Teacher, . . . when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?” (Luke:21:7).
In response, Jesus showed that Jerusalem would be the central focus of the political and military upheavals that would immediately precede His return: “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near . . . For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled” (verses 20-22).
Anyone living a century ago would have found these words nearly impossible to comprehend. Jerusalem in ancient times had been fought over countless times, but for four centuries from 1517 the city had been at peace within the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire. Jews lived there as a minority under Turkish rule. But this was going to change dramatically during the course of the 20th century.
It had to change for the fulfillment of Bible prophecy to take place.
The Old Testament prophet Zechariah was used by God to reveal a great deal about end-time events and the second coming of the Messiah. Zechariah lived and prophesied more than 500 years before Christ’s first coming, yet his prophetic book tells us a great deal about our world of today.
God says: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah [the Jews inhabiting the land of Israel] and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”
In verse 9 He adds, “It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
Reading these verses, it is possible to think that they apply to ancient events, as Jerusalem has been fought over repeatedly down through the ages. However, chapter 14 makes clear that this is talking about future, not past, events. The time setting is immediately before Jesus Christ’s return.
“Behold, the day of the Lord is coming . . . For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity . . . Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle.
“And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south” (Zechariah 14:1-4).
Clearly the last few lines of this prophecy remain to be fulfilled.
Further in this same chapter we read of how those nations that came against Jerusalem will have to go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, Jesus Christ (verse 16).
These chapters of Zechariah are a prophecy about the events that precede and include the second coming of Jesus. A Jewish-controlled Jerusalem is notice-ably the central focus.
Shortly before Zechariah, another Jewish prophet named Daniel lived during the time of the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. His book speaks of the Jews’ daily sacrifices being cut off in the end time (Daniel:12:11; see verses 1-13)—an event that had a forerunner in the temple defilement under Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C.
However, Jesus Christ confirmed this as a future event to precede His return (compareDaniel:11:31; Matthew:24:15). This means that these sacrifices must first be reinstituted in Jerusalem—requiring Jewish rule over the city.
One hundred years ago such developments were hard to imagine for the simple reason that no independent Jewish political entity existed in the Middle East.
After rebelling against the Romans in A.D. 66 and again in 132, Judea was crushed and most of the remaining Jews were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. No Jewish homeland existed again until 1948 when the modern nation of Israel was established.
An independent Jewish homeland was merely a dream for a small group of zealots a century ago. It moved a step nearer during World War I, when forces of the British Commonwealth took control of Jerusalem from the Turks in December 1916. A few months later, the British government pledged itself to the establishment of an independent Jewish homeland in the ancient lands the Jews had inhabited for centuries.
It was to be another 30 years before the dream was realized in 1948. Yet since then tiny Israel has had to fight wars for survival in 1948, 1967 and 1973 and has suffered countless terrorist attacks and threats of annihilation from hostile neighbo[u]rs determined to eliminate the Jewish state.
Once again, here is a prophecy that can now be fulfilled in our time.
Please read blog article “Altar of the Lord Rebuilt in Jerusalem – A Sign of the Times” for confirmation that this prophecy is now being fulfilled.