Understanding the Times

We need to understand the times in which we are living. We need to understand what God is doing. If we do not understand the times and what God is doing, we will not know what to do.

A general consensus has developed among Christians that we are in the "end times". Most Christians believe that Jesus is coming soon. Many well-known preachers and teachers are saying that we are in the "last days". However, despite its popularity, there are several problems with this view.

  1. Jesus was quite emphatic that even the angels do not know the date of his coming. Only the Father in heaven knows when he will return (Matt 24:36). Therefore, it is dangerous to say that we know when Jesus is coming.

  2. Therefore, it is not surprising that those who predict the second coming have a strong track record of being wrong. Christians in nearly every age have believed that they were living in the last days and that the second coming was near (eg Martin Luther). Subsequent history has always proved that they were wrong. Even in our own time, the end-time prophets have constantly postponed their timetables. I can remember when Jesus was expected to come in 1988, a generation after the establishment of Israel. That prediction seems foolish now, as does many of the Y2K prognostications.

  3. It may come as a surprise to many Christians that, although many books and Christian novels have been written about the "end times", the expression is not used in the Bible. The Bible teaches that the last days are finished (follow the link to see what the Bible says). We need a more biblical understanding of what God is doing in the world.

  4. The belief that Jesus is returning soon has made the church very present-orientated. If the end is very close, there is no point in investing in activities that have long-term benefits. The greatest hope of many Christians is to escape the world, when Jesus returns.

    Hold on!! The modern world is also present-orientated and escapist. When the church and the world are thinking the same, isn't something wrong. Has the church been captured by the spirit of the world?

  5. Christians, who count on Jesus to come soon, are living dangerously. If he does not come soon, they will be disappointed. They will not be ready for what lies ahead. (See the parable of the foolish virgins, Matthew 25:1-13).

I believe that the second coming may still be a long way off (see the Rugby Game). God has far greater works that he wants to do through his church here on earth. I am preparing for a long-term victory, after a long-term (and perhaps intense) battle. My hope is in the Holy Spirit and what he will accomplish here on earth through the Church. I am not looking for an escape from the world.

However, I am also ready to meet with Jesus, if he does come soon.

Here I will outline God's plan, identifying the times and seasons, mentioned in the Scriptures in a way that is easy to understand (follow the link for a summary).You may find these ideas hard to accept. However, don't close the page. I challenge you to read on and check whether what I say lines up with the scriptures.

(I will also challenge some of the many unbiblical teachings, which are uncritically accepted by Christians.)

End of the World?

Many Christians believe that we are getting close to the second coming of Jesus. Those who believe that the end of the world is near assume that we have entered the "end times" or "last days". They are right to think that we are getting close to a change of season, but because they do not understand the times and seasons, they are looking for the wrong events.

Most Christians assume that God's plan has the following steps.

Jesus ministry >> Church age >> End times >> End of World

This outline is wrong. It has caused widespread confusion.

Firstly, the end of the world is not the next big event on God's timetable. He has many things to do before his plans for this earth are complete, so the end of the world is a long way off. Other epochal events are more important and much closer.

Secondly, the expression "end times" is not used in the scriptures. Seeking the "end times" is a distraction that has prevented God's people from understanding his plans.

Times and Seasons

The Bible teaches that God has determined times and seasons. Paul told the Christians in one of his Churches that he did not need to speak to them about times and seasons, as they already understood them (1 Thes 5:1). He also said that God sets the times and boundaries for all nations (Acts 17:26). We need to understand the times in which we are living

The NASB translates the word "times" as "epochs". The word "epoch" is derived from a Greek word, which means pause. It is used to describe the breaks between the acts of a play. In God's plan, each new season is started by an epochal event which marks the end of the old season and the beginning of the new one. God breaks in and changes the "state of the play" and starts a new stage of history.

The key epochal events in the Old Testament are the flood, the tower of Babel, the calling of Abraham, the exodus, the kingship of David and the exile to Babylon. The incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus was the ultimate epochal event that marked the beginning of the New Testament era.

God is sovereign and he has a plan. He is not working by trial and error. He knows the beginning from the end. Each interaction builds on the previous one and moves history towards the ultimate goal.

The Rock and the Mountain

The New Testament age has two main parts. This is explained in Daniel 2. The Babylonian king saw a great statue. The process by which Daniel received the interpretation is amazing. He explained that the statue the king saw in his dream represented four kingdoms. The head of gold symbolised the Babylonian empire. The feet of iron and clay represented the Roman empire, which would come 300 years into the future.

A rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth (Dan 2:34-35).
Daniel also saw a great rock smashing the feet of the statue so that it was destroyed and scattered like chaff on a threshing floor. This rock eventually became a great mountain that filled the entire earth.

Daniel explained that the "God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed" (Dan 2:44). The Hebrew word for stone (eben) links with the word for Son (ben). Jesus is the son, who will establish a kingdom that will never be destroyed. The Rock is his church. Eventually, this Rock will grow into a great Mountain, which will fill the whole earth. God's kingdom will crush all other kingdoms of the world and bring them to an end. Like chaff in the wind, they will be swept away without leaving a trace (Dan 2:35,44).

During the first part of the New Testament age, the focus is on the church. Jesus referred to his church as a "Rock". This Rock grows and during the second stage, the Kingdom of God comes to fulfilment. This stage is likened to a "Mountain". The Kingdom of God has not yet filled the whole earth, so we are still in the age of the Rock. However, the time will come when the Kingdom of God will fill the entire earth. This age of the Mountain is yet to come. The events of the second half should not be judged by the standards of the first half.

We are still in the first half of the New Testament age, but we are now getting close to the transition from the Rock to the Mountain.

God has Plenty of Time

Most Christians will be surprised to learn that we are still in the first half of the New Testament age. However, we need to understand that God has plenty of time and he still has a lot to accomplish

Look at these time spans.

Creation to flood 2000 years
to Abraham +500 years
to Exodus +500 years
to David +500 years

From our perspective, the 2000 years of the New Testament age so far seems like a long time, but when we realise that 3000 years went by before God gave the law, we realise it is quite a short time.

The reason why God has plenty of time is given in 2 Peter 3:8,9.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

This is not a mathematical formula that is a key to biblical prophecy. Peter points out that God is not slow, but is patient. He wants the full number of people to be saved. God's patience contrasts with our impatience. We think 2000 years is a long time, but to God it is just like two days. We should not think that because 2000 years have gone by that God is running out of time.

Five Seasons

The New Testament age consists of five seasons: three during the first part (rock) and two during the second part (mountain). The five seasons are as follows:

Rock

  1. The Last Days (Heb 1:2)

  2. Times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24)

  3. Time of distress (Dan 12:1; 8:19;11:36)

Mountain

  1. Kingdom of God (Luke 11:2; Rev 11:15)

  2. Little Time (Rev 20:3)

These seasons vary in length. The first and the last are very short. The second season is much longer. The third quite is quite short. The fourth will be really long. The final season is short.

Sevens are more important than thousands in God's plan. Follow this link for an explanation of the relationship between the expression time, times, and half a time and the Seven Times or Years.

Epochal Events

Nine epochal events mark the transition from one season to another. They are:

  • Jesus Ministry —— marks transition to Season 1

  • Fall of Jerusalem ——(AD 70) — transition from season 1 to 2

  • Four Horsemen —— starts season 3

  • Big Battle —— ends season 3

  • Fullness of Israel —— ends season 3

  • Collapse of Human Government —— ends season 3

  • Gospel Advance —— starts season 4

  • Man of Lawlessness —— transition from season 4 to 5

  • Jesus Appearance —— ends season 5

The transition from the third season to the fourth is marked by three epochal events. This is also the transition from the Rock to the Mountain.

Time Line

There is a very clear time line.

Bigger

The seasons and epochal events are described briefly below. For more detail follow the various links.

Destruction of Jerusalem — Epochal Event

The first epochal event in the New Testament era was the Destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This event put the final 'nail in the coffin' of the Old Testament Age.

Jesus predicted this event in Matthew 24:1-35, Mark 13:1-31 and Luke 21:5-33. Most Christians believe these verses describe events before the Second Coming. This is not true. To understand these verses, we must note the question that Jesus was answering. The disciples had commented on the glory and beauty of the temple. Jesus said that the time would come when not one stone would be left standing on another. The disciples could not believe this would happen; the temple was the centre of their world. Jesus gave them the signs that would lead up to this event.

An idolatrous sacrifice would be made in the temple. Jesus said that when this happened all Christians should flee Jerusalem. The Christians in Jerusalem (eg Barnabas) sold their property because they knew it would soon become worthless (Acts 4:36). In A.D.70 a Roman army surrounded Jerusalem and started a terrible siege. The Jewish historian Josephus described this time and it was a terrible tribulation. Conditions were so severe that mothers ate their babies to survive. Jesus' awful prophecies were fulfilled. However, Christians who had heeded Jesus' warning left the city before the siege began and fled to the safety of the mountains. (See the Jesus Big Prophecy for more).

Last Days — First Season

The forty-year season between the ministry of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem is called the Time of the New Order. Hebrews 9:10 says that the temple sacrifices applied until the "time of the new order". The death and resurrection of Jesus marked the end of the Old Testament age and the beginning of that new order.

The new order had two consequences.

Firstly, the role of Jerusalem in God's plan was redundant. The temple had been the centre of sacrifice; but now Jesus death on the cross put an end to sacrifice forever. Jerusalem had been the throne of the King of Israel. Now Jesus had been ascended to sit at the right hand of God as King of the whole earth. Christians have been appointed as kings and priests (Revelation 1:7).

Secondly, God established the church to do his work in the world.

The time of the new order is also called a time of punishment (Luke 21:22). The Jews had rejected Jesus. The destruction of Jerusalem was the consequence of rejecting God's plan and crucifing the Son of God. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Jews were scattered among the nations.

The Bible gives us another name for the season between the ministry of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem. This name for the time of the new order is surprising. Many readers will find this hard to accept, as I did. This season is called "The Last Days".

Times of the Gentiles — Second Season

What Season are we in now?

The Destruction of Jerusalem marked the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles. In Luke 21:24, Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trampled until the Times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (cf Rev 11:4). Jerusalem is still being trampled by other nations. The epochal event that ends this season has not yet occurred, so we are currently living in the Times of the Gentiles.

Paul explains the reason for the Times of the Gentiles in the book of Romans. In Romans 10:21 he describes Israel as a disobedient nation. Although a few have been saved, as a nation they are shut off from God. They have been hardened (11:25), become enemies of the gospel (11:28) committed to disobedience (11:31) and been broken out of the vine (11:17).

This is the reason why the battle has been so hard for the last two millennia. Part of the team is missing. The church is not complete so it has not been functioning at full power.

When Jesus died upon the cross, the devil was totally and fully defeated. He was cast out of heaven (Rev 12:13) and can only continue to function on earth if he can deceive people into rejecting the gospel. However, he does have one last legal right on earth. Because Israel has rejected God and lost its protection (Matt 23:39), Satan has had the right to work evil that will affect the Jews. Furthermore, because they had been scattered among the nations, he has been empowered to work in all the nations.

Whenever Satan wants to do great evil in a nation, he incites it to attack the Jews and then he has a greater authority to do his work. For example, Satan incited both Hitler and Stalin to attack the Jews. This enabled him to do great evil through them.

The rejection of Israel has also given Satan a legal right to continue working in the world, despite his defeat. Because he has had this freedom work in the world, the Kingdom has not come to its true fulfilment.

We can expect the rise and decline of the Kingdom to continue until the Times of the Gentiles are finished. However, when the Jewish hardening comes to an end, Satan's last legal authority on earth will be gone. His power to do evil will be severely curtailed. The end of the Times of the Gentiles will bring a rapid decline in evil and open the way for an equally rapid advance of the Kingdom of God.

We are getting close to the end of the Time of the Gentiles
and moving into the Time of Distress.

What is the next epochal event? This is something that we really need to know, if we are to understand the times in which we live.

Four Horsemen — Next Epochal Event

I believe we are close to the end of the Time of the Gentiles and moving into the Time of Distress. However, the events that indicate the start of this time are described in the Book of Revelation. The birth pangs or epochal events that mark this change of season are the Four Horsemen of Revelation 6.

We will soon see the events marking the beginning of the Time of Distress. These are not a sign of the second coming or the rapture, but they do lead up to the Fullness of Israel and the establishment of the Kingdom of God.

Time of Distress — Third Season

The season that follows the Times of the Gentiles is the Time of Distress. Daniel was told that multitudes from his nation would receive salvation during a Time of Distress for the nations (Dan 12:2,3). It is also described as a time of wrath (Dan 8:1; 11:36). The time when the Holy Spirit is poured out on Israel will come at the end of a time of great trauma on the earth. Many nations will be attacking Israel. There will be disasters around the world. Therefore, this short period at the end of the Times of the Gentiles which leads up to the Fullness of Israel is called the Time of Distress. However, although it is a difficult time, God will also pour out his Spirit during this time. Moreover, because God is merciful, it will be cut short; it is only half a time.

Instead of looking for an escape, as many Christians are, we should:

  • Pray for the calling of Israel

  • Prepare for a tough time, as Satan will not give up without a fight and many Christians will be persecuted.

  • Be open for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

  • Raise up a prophetic voice that understands these times, that can speak out against the nations and prepare Israel to receive her deliverance and salvation.

We should not look for the Second Coming or rapture during this time of distress. To do so, would only lead to disappointment.We can be encouraged that the Time of Distress is a very short season.

For more detail about what will happen during the Time of Distress go to What is Going On.

Big Battle — Epochal Event

One epochal event that marks the end of the Time of Distress is a Big Battle. When the Time of Distress is getting rough, the remaining political powers will engage in a battle to the death.

The Big Battle will often become a personal struggle between political leaders. For most of history, war was a struggle between one king and another, with each being supported by a small retinue of followers. Ordinary people did not get involved, unless they lived close to the battlefield. The nature of warfare changed dramatically with the emergence of nationalism. War stopped being a contest between kings and became a struggle between nations. Nations tend to fight over causes, and everyone is drawn into the struggle.

During the Time of Distress, war between nations will be transformed into personal struggles between political and military leaders (Dan 11). Assassinations of political leaders will be a morally acceptable tool for projecting the Beastís power. The weapons of war will change.

Fullness of Israel — Epochal Event

A key epochal event that follows the Time of Distress is called the Fullness of Israel (Rom.11:12). Traditionally, this event has been called the "Calling of the Jews". However "fullness" is the biblical term, so I prefer it. The Bible is clear that the Jews have not "stumbled beyond salvation" (Rom.11:1-11). They have only been shut out for a time. They will eventually come back under the blessing of God. The Jews will be "grafted into the vine" (11:23) and "saved" (11:26), because their "calling is irrevocable" (11:29). The Fullness of Israel will not just bring blessing to them, it will mean "riches for the world" (11:12) and "life from the dead" (11:15).

The important question is how the Fullness of Israel will come about. The key to this is understanding that their problem is "seeing". Romans tells us that their eyes have been blinded so they cannot see the truth and their hearts have been hardened in part (11:25). To come to salvation, their spiritual eyes will have to be opened.

Zechariah 12:10 speaks of a time when God will pour his spirit out on Israel so that their eyes will be opened and they will see Jesus as he really is. Ezekiel 39:29 says that God will no longer hide his face from Israel, but will pour out his Spirit on the house of Israel. A great outpouring of the Spirit will bring about the Fullness of Israel (not the Second Coming of Jesus).

This will bring about a time of great blessing — "riches to the world" (Romans 11:12). Satan's last authority on earth will be gone and he will be routed. This is not a change in game plan. The Jews receive salvation like everyone else, by repenting and believing in Jesus (Mat 23:39).

The Fullness of the Jews is the epochal event that marks the end of the Time of Distress. More at Fullness of Israel.

Collapse of Human Government — Epochal Event

Another epochal event that follows the Time of Distress is called the Collapse of Human Government. Human governments collapse under the weight of their failed programs and broken promises. If their rise to power is grand, their collapse will be spectacular. Faith in human government and political power will be destroyed forever.

Human political power is a huge obstacle to the Kingdom, because it undermines Godís authority and offers a false salvation. The spread of democracy has increased this faith. Before the Holy Spirit can bring the Kingdom of God to fullness, this widespread trust in human political power must be swept away.

Advance of the Gospel — Epochal Event

The epochal event that starts the next season is called the Advance of the Gospel. Several changes make a rapid advance of the gospel possible.

Kingdom of God — Fourth Season

The long season after the Time of Distress is the Kingdom of God. Once the fullness of the Jew's come in, the team is complete. Satan will have lost his power, so a time of great victory for the church will follow.

Daniel had a vision of the Ancient of Days, God, and one like a son of man coming into his presence (Dan 7:9,13,14). This is the ascension when Jesus entered heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father. He was given a Kingdom that would never end.

Daniel 7:18,22,27 describes a subsequent period when the saints possess the Kingdom. Sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. This is a picture of people of God being given authority to establish his Kingdom. The game plan is still the same. The Kingdom advances rapidly by the proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Look here for a full description of the Kingdom of God.

In Ephesians 1:9,10, this season is called the Times of Fulfilment. At first glance, this appears to be a reference to the Second Coming. However, the event is the mystery, which God purposed in Christ. In Ephesians 3:10, this mystery is explained as the church achieving victory over rulers and authorities (the mystery is not the Second Coming).

During the season of the Kingdom, all God's promises will be fulfilled. Our mandate to fill the earth and manage it will be completed. Our commission to make disciples of all nations will be successful.

The glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14).

How long will the times of the fulfilment of the Kingdom last? The Bible does not say. However, this is is one of the two very long seasons. If the times of the gentiles go for 2000 years, the times of fulfilment could last at least as long, or longer. This is God's best season, so it is unlikely it will be cut short.

According to Revelation 7:9, there will be a great multitude in heaven, for more than can be counted. The angels have been counted, and there are thousands of millions of them. There will be far more Christians than angels. Currently, there are only about a billion Christians on heaven and on earth, a number equivalent to the population of China (which can be counted). Considerable more time will be required for this great multitude of people to be brought in.

God is a gracious God. By the time that this season is complete the number of those saved will far exceed the number who have been lost — a far more respectable score.

The Man of Sin - Epochal Event

The coming of the Man of Sin will end the Times of Fulfilment of the Kingdom of God. He is described in 2 Thessalonians 2. This man is not the Beast of Revelation, nor is he the antichrist. He is a man who leads a rebellion against God at the end of the age. He will be destroyed by the Second Coming of Jesus.

Little Season — Fifth Season

The season ushered by the man of sin is called the "Little Season" or Short Time Rev 20:3). God will release Satan for one last time. God is so gracious that he even gives Satan one last chance to repent. However, he will not take this opportunity, and will go out to do evil. This season of evil will be very short, so it is referred to as half a time. It is described more fully at Short Time.

Jesus Appearance — Final Epochal Event

The short time will be cut short by the Parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ. His appearance will light up the sky from one end to another. Those who believe him will come into his presence.

The Parousia will usher in the final judgment. All men will be raised to stand before Jesus the Judge. Those who belong to him will go to live with him for eternity.

Understanding the Times

We are now close to the end of the Times of the Gentiles and moving into the Time of Distress. We will soon see the events leading up to the Fullness of Israel. This will be a testing time, but it is also a time of great opportunity. Instead of looking for an escape as many Christians are, we should:

  • Pray for the calling of Israel

  • Prepare for a tough time

  • Seeking the anointing of the Holy Spirit

  • Raise up a prophetic voice that understands these times

  • Prepare to possess the Kingdom of God

  • Prepare for the Challenge of establishing the Kingdom of God.

We should not look for the Second Coming or rapture during this time of distress. To do so, would only lead to disappointment. Instead, we should be looking for the time when the saints possess the Kingdom. This will be the most glorious time in all of New Testament history. What a privilege to be part of this great victory.

This information is set out more fully in a book called Times and Seasons.

For more information follow this link What is Going On.