Major Events Preceding the Second Coming of Christ
The Second Coming of Christ is preceded by a number of world-shaking events that must occur before Christ can return. This is in contrast to the rapture of the church, which is always presented in Scripture as an imminent event. The Second Coming, however, is a climax of what God is doing with the world to prepare it for Christ's millennial kingdom. Many detailed prophecies relate to this period, and understanding this helps one to analyze current world affairs as shaping up in preparation for these events.
The Revival of the Roman Empire
In Daniel's presentation of the four great empires in chapter 7, the fourth empire, though not named, is clearly to be identified with the Roman government. In the revelation of Daniel 7, the prophet sees four great beasts, the first being a lion, representing Babylon, the second a bear, representing Medo-Persia, and the third a leopard, representing the empire of Alexander. The student of Daniel's prophecies does not have to guess at this because Daniel names the second and third empires as that of Medo-Persia and Greece (Daniel 8:20-21). The fourth beast, which follows the Grecian empire, however,is not named but is described as "terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had en horns" (Daniel 7:7). The description here of the fourth empire fits accurately the Roman Empire from God's point of view.
The Roman legion conquered country after country and carried off able-bodied men as slaves and enforced their rule by leaving contingents of soldiers in each country. It literally "devoured its victims and trampled underfoot" each country. In the explanation given to Daniel concerning the four beasts and the ten kingdoms, he was told: "The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom" (Daniel 7:23-24). The prophecies of the four empires have already been fulfilled in history except that the Roman Empire has never developed into a ten-nation kingdom. Accordingly, many believe that this is a future situation that will take place after the Rapture of the church.
Many prophecies of the Old Testament that deal with the end of the age leap from the first coming of Christ to the second coming of Christ without taking into account the present age. This is true of the feet of the image in Daniel 2, and it is also true of the prophecy concerning the fourth kingdom, which today seemingly has disappeared, but in Scripture will be revived in the ten-nation form preceding the second coming of Christ. As the fourth kingdom is finally terminated by Jesus Christ's coming from heaven (Daniel 7:13-14), it becomes clear that this form of the kingdom will emerge before the second coming of Christ.
The Emergence of Antichrist
In addition to explaining that the empire will consist of ten kingdoms, Daniel was told that there will be an eleventh horn, an individual who will conquer them all. This is stated in Daniel 7:8, "While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully." This eleventh horn, obviously, is another king distinct from the ten kings mentioned earlier. At Daniel's request, explanation was given to him about it in Daniel 7:24, "After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings." As it is also stated in 7:23, he will eventually conquer the entire world, and it seems clear that he gains control of all these ten kingdoms before he rises to become a world dictator.
In Revelation 13:1-10 another prophetic vision was given concerning this fourth beast. Revelation 13:1 states that it has ten horns and ten crowns in the final empire, the beast gathers in all of the preceding empires pictured as a lion, a bear, and a leopard. John writes, "The beast I saw remembered a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion" (Revelation 13:2). From Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 it may be concluded that the Bible speaks of a future world empire that will be revival of the Roman Empire that was in existence when Christ was on earth. The extent of the power of this world empire is given in Revelation 13:5-7:
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander His name and His dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
According to the book of Revelation, this ruler will head the world government for forty-two months. This forty-two month period is the last three and a half years prior to the second coming of Christ. In that period there will be a time of unprecedented trouble. This is described in Daniel 12:1, "There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people - everyone whose name is found written in the book - will be delivered."
Christ also spoke of this time of trouble preceding His second coming when He told some of the disciples, "For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now - and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened." (Matthew 24:21-22). In Matthew 24:29-30 Christ goes on to explain to His disciples that His second coming will bring this time of trouble to a close.
Immediately after the distress of those days 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky,and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.
The Covenant with Israel
Christ will deal with the world of the Gentiles pictured in the ten-nation group and the world empire that follows, according to Daniel, in the seven-year period leading up to His second coming. This is part of the "seventy times seven" (490) years of God's dealing with the people of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27), beginning with the restoration of the city of Jerusalem in 444 B.C. These 490 years, however, are divided into three periods, with the first two consecutive, but the last seven years will be separated from the preceding period by the present age that intervenes, during which God is calling out His Church. Once the rapture of the Church takes place, however, it will be possible for God to bring about the fulfillment of the last seven years described in Daniel 9:27, "He [the ruler will come, v. 26] will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven'. In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering." The last seven years preceding the Second Coming begin when the covenant is made, probably shortly after the Rapture.
~John F. Walvoord~
(Continued with # 2)