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How can we know that Christ’s return is near? (Part 9)

When Christ was asked by four of His disciples about the end of the age, He said:

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near–at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35).

It is clarified in the parallel Scripture in Luke 21:31 that Christ was speaking about His Second Coming and the establishment of the Kingdom of God here on earth. “All these things” refer to the events, which we are describing in this series. The Greek word for “generation,” i.e., genea, refers here to the people in the end time–not the entire race throughout many “generations.”

In Psalm 90:10, a generation is described as lasting 70-80 years. We also read in the Bible that God sometimes shortens or prolongs human life, and that bloodthirsty and deceitful men may not live out HALF their days (Psalm 55:23). We know that men will be so bloodthirsty and destructive in the end time that Christ will HAVE to SHORTEN the days of worldwide warfare, lest NO man would survive (Matthew 24:22).

We have not yet seen the beginning of the Great Tribulation, but we know that it is the next major event to occur in our time. When we see the signs of the times, as we are discussing them in this series, we know that Christ’s return is near. We do not know the exact time of Christ’s return, but based on the parable of the fig tree, we CAN say that we ARE living today in the very last generation, and that Christ WILL return BEFORE this present generation has “passed away.”

Following the beginning of the Great Tribulation, Christ warns in Matthew 24:29 of heavenly signs, when “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” The parallel account in Luke 21:25-26 adds that at that time, there will be “distress of nations” on this earth, “with perplexity, the sea and the waves” will be “roaring,” and “men’s hearts” will fail them “from fear and the expectation of those things” which will be “coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

Luke 21:11 also states that at that time, “fearful sights and great signs from heaven” will be observed. All of these events are depicted by the sixth seal in Revelation 6:12-14, picturing those “heavenly signs” or cosmic disturbances, which are introduced by a great earthquake.

It appears that certain frightful signs will already begin to occur right after the four horsemen of the Apocalypse have begun to ride and pestilences will be spread throughout the earth. Notice that Luke 21:11 is followed by a description of the Great Tribulation in verses 12-24, and verse 25 continues to describe the terrible heavenly signs, after the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Unless we conclude that verses 11 and 25 refer to the same incident, it appears that certain “fearful sights and great signs from heaven” will occur even prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation.  Notice, however, that Christ speaks of FEARFUL signs and wonders. Solar eclipses and nice-looking “blood moons”—when the moon does temporarily appear in a somewhat red light—would most certainly not constitute “fearful” signs and wonders.

As we already discussed, God gave His Church the commission to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God in all the world as a witness. This includes a warning message of events to occur during the Great Tribulation, showing that the warning must logically precede the time of the beginning of the Great Tribulation.

The last European revival of the ancient Roman Empire and the powerful military leader (the beast) will cause the Great Tribulation. Just prior to that time, they will begin, at first, to temporarily collaborate, to an extent, with Arab nations (including Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Jordan) and Turkey in their common goal of destroying “Israel” (Psalm 83:1-8). This collaboration might not endure until the return of Christ.

However, there is no biblical suggestion that a seven-year contract will be entered into between the “beast” and those or other Arab nations, which will allegedly be broken after 3 ½ years.

The passage which is sometimes quoted for the false proposition of a seven-year contract—Daniel 9:27—does not refer to such an end-time physical covenant. Rather, it addresses the death of Jesus Christ in the middle of the week (Wednesday, when He was crucified) after His 3 ½ year-long public ministry. His death did away with or “brought to an end” the sacrificial system of animal sacrifices and “confirmed” the spiritual New Covenant with His people for one prophetic week or seven years (Christ will fulfill the remaining 3 ½ years of His seven year-long ministry when He returns).

It is revealed however that the European invasion of the Holy Land will occur when animal sacrifices will be brought there by the Jews, apparently during or after the completed construction of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount (Daniel 8:11-14; 11:31; 12:11-12). The beast will invade the Holy Land and conquer countries such as Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia (Daniel 11:41-43).

But note that the countries mentioned in Daniel 11:41-43 are NOT the same as the countries mentioned in Psalm 83 with which the beast will have a temporary alliance. In fact, Daniel 11 specifically mentions that those countries (mentioned in Psalm 83) will “escape” the hands of the beast.

Many believe, based on prophecies contained in the 11th chapter of the book of Daniel, that immediately before the return of Jesus Christ, a powerful Arab leader— a religious “Mullah” or Madhi, many times imagined to be the “king of the South”— will still arise in the Middle East. Daniel 11:40-41 says: “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack [or: push at] him [the king of the North]; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown…”

Historically, and reviewing the entire biblical prophecy in the 11th chapter of the book of Daniel, we can determine that at the time described in verse 40, the king of the North constituted the ninth resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire, or the sixth resurrection of the “Holy” Roman Empire, led by Mussolini and Hitler.

At that time, the modern remnant of the “king of the South” of this prophecy was Ethiopia. The prophecy in Daniel 11:40 WAS FULFILLED in 1896, when King Menelik II of Ethiopia “pushed at” the Italians and defeated Italy at Aduwa. In 1935, Mussolini responded when the king of the South was Emperor Haile Selassie. Mussolini came against Ethiopia like a whirlwind, using airplanes, and conquered it.

But, what about today or the immediate future? Will there occur another conflict between the king of the North — the final LEADER of the 10th resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire, or the 7th resurrection of the “Holy” Roman Empire — and a king of the South, a final LEADER in the Middle East? Perhaps — but not necessarily so.

Let us first address the concept of a future religious figure, a Mahdi, who will allegedly unite many Muslim nations and attempt to establish the Muslim religion in all the world. This is strictly a Muslim concept. The Bible nowhere says that a Muslim Mahdi will appear in the Middle East or elsewhere, in an attempt to unite Arab and Muslim nations (which would also require healing the long-time animosity between Shias and Sunnis) and to establish a power bloc, ruled by the Muslim religion.

In addition, we need to emphasize that the prophecy in Daniel 11:40 has ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED, and verse 40 is the LAST TIME when the king of the South is mentioned! Beginning with the second half of verse 40, we read exclusively about the king of the North and his activities, and, in verse 44, about rumors from the east and the west.

Some point out that Daniel 11:40 speaks specifically about the time of the end, and that therefore a future king of the South must still arise just prior to Christ’s return.  However, the book of Daniel includes several examples where the terms “the last days” or the “time of the end” are used, without necessarily referring to just a few years prior to Christ’s return.

For instance, we read in Daniel 2:28 that a dream about a statue was to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar “what will be in the latter days.” The dream described four successive world empires which would arise on the world scene, and the fourth empire (the Roman Empire) would survive (through ten successive revivals) until the return of Christ. Much of the dream related to events a long time prior to the last revival of the Roman Empire with ten kings at the time of Christ’s return—the “stone” or Rock which would smite and destroy the ten toes of the statue (verse 44-45).

Something similar can be found in Daniel 8:17, 19, which talks about “the time of the end” and the “latter time of the indignation.” The entire passage starts with the time of ancient Media and Persia, followed by Alexander the Great and, sometime later, Antiochus Epiphanes, and culminating in certain events which apparently end with the last King of the North at the time of Christ’s return. (We understand of course the dual application of this prophecy, as we discussed earlier.)

When reading Daniel 12:4, 9, we are told that the book of Daniel would be sealed “until the time of the end,” but that then “knowledge” in general and the right understanding of the book would increase. This has most certainly started to occur under the late Herbert W. Armstrong (the human leader of the now-defunct Worldwide Church of God) who died in 1986.

Viewing Daniel 11:40 and the historical events in this light, we note that there DOES NOT HAVE TO BE ANOTHER end-time king of the South. If one were to arise, following the historical and biblical records, as set forth in the 11th chapter of the book of Daniel, it would have to be—mainly—modern Ethiopia.

But ALL WHICH STILL NEEDS TO BE FULFILLED (and which the previous king of the North—Mussolini—did NOT fulfill), is the invasion of the Glorious Land by the future and final king of the North (verse 41), including Jerusalem (verse 45), as well as the overthrow of “many countries” (verse 41), including Egypt, while the “Libyans and Ethiopians” will follow at his heels (verse 43).

It is entirely possible that the prophecy in verse 40 is dual and a type of future events to be repeated—but it DOES NOT HAVE TO BE this way. It is NOT necessary, based on biblical prophecy, that there will still arise an end-time “king of the South,” attacking or pushing at the end-time king of the North. Christ could return without such an event having to occur first.

Also, a final king of the South would not be from Egypt, and he would not constitute a confederacy of Arab nations led by Egypt. Rather, Ethiopia would be the only possible government that could be the final king of the South.

Until Mussolini, Ethiopia was the only country in all East Africa that continued to stay independent from the Roman Empire throughout history, and that had a government and kingdom dating back before the Roman Empire. It was the southern part of the ancient kingdom of the South. It was the only possible government to be the king of the South under Mussolini, and it would therefore be the only possible government for a final appearance of a king of the South.

Of course, Ethiopia could be a leading nation in collaboration with other Arab nations. We read in Ezekiel 30:1-9, 18-19 that at the time of the “day of the LORD” (a reference to the end time), the sword will come upon Egypt, as well as on additional countries like Ethiopia (Cush), Libya (Put), and Lydia (or Lud; compare Jeremiah 46:8-9, showing that Egypt, Ethiopia, Lydia and Libya will be allies at that time of the end). Verses 4-5 refer to Chub, which is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture; the passage could also read, “and ALL (Chub) the men of the lands who were allied…” We also read specifically in verse 18 that at that time of the “day of the LORD”, Egyptians will go into captivity (through the king of the North, compare Daniel 11:42).

Even though Ezekiel 30 does not refer to those nations as being the king of the South, they seem to describe a power bloc in opposition to the final European revival of the ancient Roman Empire, under Assyrian (German or Austrian) leadership. None of these countries referred to in Ezekiel 30 are mentioned in Psalm 83:1-8. It appears, then, that the countries mentioned in Psalm 83, which are allied WITH Assyria, are different from the countries, mentioned in Ezekiel 30, which are apparently allied AGAINST Assyria.

As the ninth revival of the ancient Roman Empire, under Mussolini, was comprised of several nations and powers, including Hitler’s Germany, and as the final revival of the king of the North will consist of ten European nations or groups of nations, under Assyrian leadership, so if there is to be a future king of the South, he might very well constitute a coalition of Middle Eastern nations, under Ethiopian leadership.

When wanting to consider prophesied end-time events in the Middle East, we must foremost look at Europe under German leadership and the final revival of the Roman Empire. When we see modern Assyria (Germany) form an alliance with certain Muslim nations against Israel; when we see ten European nations or groups of nations transfer their power to the beast–a military leader of German or Austrian descent–and when we see that the beast will shortly thereafter invade the Middle East and fight against the state of Israel and other Arab nations, then we know that the return of Jesus Christ will be imminent.

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link