In a very short time, Jesus Christ is going to return to Earth as He promised. In the past I've always thought that this would be a positive event for those that comprise His Church. Lately however, I am beginning to see this in a different light.
For many years the Churches of God have been predicting a whole range of events that they believe must come to pass before Christ returns. These predictions are largely based on erroneous interpretations of Biblical prophecies, using the interpretation method known as "Futurism", which was devised by Catholic Jesuit priests as part of the Counter-Reformation.
Many Churches have made TV programs heavily laden with futurist ideas, with titles such as the United Church of God's "Seven Prophetic Signs Before Jesus Returns". Some will dogmatically state that "Christ can't return yet".
Time and again they refer to the same list of events that they believe must happen first, like "the Great Tribulation", the "Ten Toes" of a European power, and the "Two Witnesses", to name but a few.
I believe that if Christ were to return today, many members of the Church of God (COG) would say things like: "This is a hoax" or, worse still, "this must be the Antichrist", based on all the "prophecies" that they have been hearing during the final, Laodicean, era of the Church. They would think that it can't be Christ's return because this or that major event hasn't happened yet.
The simple question must be asked: How will those who fail to recognise Christ at His return, because of their own unwillingness to adequately study the prophecies of the Bible, be viewed by Christ at that time?
Could this be something He is warning us about in the parable of the ten virgins of Matt 25, where those who aren't ready for His return are shut out of the Kingdom?
When Christ came to this Earth the first time, His own physical people by and large failed to recognise and accept Him as the one who was prophesied to come. Are we going to see a repeat of this, when Christ soon returns to His spiritual people?
Let's look at a list of prophecies that, according to the general consensus of the Churches of God, are still in the future, but which can be shown upon closer examination to have already been fulfilled in history.
1) The Great Tribulation
This event is found in the Olivet prophecy of Matt 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, which is largely a Jerusalem focused message. The "great tribulation" occurred in 70AD when Rome totally destroyed Jerusalem, 40 years after the Jews had rejected and killed Christ.
In Luke 21:23 the term "great distress" is used instead of "great tribulation" as found in Matt 24:21. Luke says that the great distress would affect "the land" (Judea) and "this people" (the Jews), and would be followed by this people being led captive, after which "the times of the Gentiles" (2520 years of Jerusalem being trodden down by Gentiles, which had begun with Jerusalem's capture by Nebuchadnezzar) would continue until they came to their appointed end.
All of this fits exactly with what happened to the Jews at the hands of the Romans. Some people want to explain this passage by appealing to the concept of duality, thinking there is a second, end time, fulfilment, in addition to the original, first century, fulfilment. However, Christ said the exact opposite. He said "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. How can that be dual?
Much is made of Matt 24:22 which states "And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened". The phrase "no flesh" is explained by the COG's as applying to the whole world. As noted above, however, Luke 21:23 shows that this calamity was to befall "the land" (Judea) and "this people" (the Jews, i.e. the physical elect), not the whole world. If the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70AD had continued for much longer, everyone in the city would have perished from starvation.
Great confusion is also caused by misinterpreting the word "end" in Matt 24:14, which states "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come". This verse is about the New Covenant gospel beginning to become established, and going out into the world, after which all things associated with the Old Covenant in Jerusalem are destroyed and come to an "end". Hence Christ continues "therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (Matt 24:15), i.e. "Jerusalem surrounded by armies" (Luke 21:20), "then know that its destruction is near" (rest of verse 20).
Note that the Biblical writers already in their time considered the gospel to have gone out "throughout the whole world" (Rom 1:8), "made known to all nations" (Rom 16:26), and unto "every creature under heaven" (Col 1:23). This shows how important it is to not assume that our understanding of the terminology is necessarily the same as what the authors had in mind.
Additionally, the text of Luke 21:23-24 says that the "great tribulation" or "great distress" happens before the "times of the Gentiles" come to an end. As the "times of the Gentiles" came to an end in the 20th century when the Jews got their country back, the "great tribulation" cannot still be in the future. See "THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES" and "THE REAL SEVEN SEALS".
2) The Ten Toes
This is a prophecy based on Dan 2 and Rev 17. The COG's believe this is about a still future power bloc of ten nations to emerge in Europe. Please see the page "THE TWO WITNESSES" which lists ten Islamic dynasties that ruled Jerusalem over a period of almost 1300 years, and which are the true fulfilment of the "ten toes". See also "DANIEL 2 - INTERPRETATION ERRORS".
3) The Two Witnesses
Rather than two individuals yet to emerge, the "two witnesses" of Rev 11:3 are the people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (i.e. the Jews) who stood up on their feet after WWII and got their land back after 2520 years of punishment, as clearly shown in detail in the description of the sixth trumpet in Revelation chapters 9 to 11. See the page "THE TWO WITNESSES".
4) Six of the Seven Trumpets
Six of the seven trumpets of Revelation 8 to 11 have been fulfilled. The seven trumpets picture seven major events to befall Jerusalem from the time that this prophecy was given, beginning with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD, until the soon coming return of Christ to Jerusalem. See the page "THE HISTORICAL 7TH SEAL (THE SEVEN TRUMPETS)".
5) The Kings of the North and South
These powers, described in Dan 11, denote the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Seleucid Empire which rose after the time of Alexander the Great and preceded the emergence of the Roman Empire, prior to the first coming of Christ. See "DANIEL 2 - INTERPRETATION ERRORS", and "KINGS OF THE NORTH AND SOUTH".
6) The Mark of the Beast
This is a prophecy described in Rev 13 and elsewhere in Revelation. The mark of the Beast is Sabbath breaking, something common to all Beast powers. The Papacy and traditional Christianity, however, took this "mark" a big step further, banning Sabbath keeping and replacing it with Sunday worship instead, until their power to do so subsided in recent centuries. Obviously this is not a prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled. See "REV 13 - THE BEAST" and "BABYLON IS FALLEN".
7) The Man of Sin / Antichrist / False Prophet
The "man of sin" is a prophecy found in II Thes 2 which foretells the rise of the Papacy, not something, or someone still in the future today. The man of sin is also described as "the antichrist" in I John 2:18 and "the false prophet" in Rev 19:20 and 20:10. See the page "THE MAN OF SIN".
8) The "Daily Sacrifice" and the "Abomination of Desolation"
Many of the Churches of God believe that a physical temple will be built in Jerusalem before Jesus Christ returns. The perceived need for this is based on Dan 12:11 which says that "the daily sacrifice shall be taken away", after which the Churches believe "the abomination of desolation" will be set up. The assumption has been made, incorrectly, that this passage is talking about literal, physical sacrifices in a literal, physical temple. However, this prophecy was fulfilled when non-Muslims were banned from praying (i.e. offering spiritual sacrifice) on the Temple Mount at the time that it was turned into an Islamic place of worship in the late 7th century, when the Dome of the Rock was constructed. Non-Muslims are still banned from praying on the Temple Mount, which is why we see the Jews praying at the Wailing Wall instead. See the "HOME" page for the Daniel 12 timelines related to the Dome of the Rock, using the "day for a year" prophetic interpretation method.
This refers to the Battle of Megiddo that was fought in September 1918, leading to the defeat of the Ottoman Empire's Islamic forces. This was a momentous historical milestone, as, with the exception of about 100 combined years of Crusader rule, Islamic dynasties had ruled the Holy Land since 638AD, a period of almost 1300 years. Read a brief description of the Battle of Megiddo here:
Also see "THE REAL SEVEN PLAGUES", in particular the sixth plague.
10) The 70 Week Prophecy
Most branches of the Church are still expecting a portion of this prophecy from Dan 9:24-27 to be fulfilled. The SDA's believe that there are seven years still remaining, but three and a half years seems to be the number most COG's are anticipating.
In a nutshell, the 490 years that this prophecy covers can be identified as follows:
The first seven weeks (49 years) run from the edict of Cyrus until the end of the Ezra/Nehemiah period when the OT was completed. Then there are 62 weeks (434 years) until the birth of Christ ("And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off (from His existence as a God being), and shall have nothing (he shall be a mere human baby)" - Dan 9:26 ASV). Thus the prophecy bridges the time gap between the OT and NT Scriptures. Numbers 4 stipulates that those who enter the service of the house of God must be 30 years of age, and so Christ began His ministry in His 30th year (Lk 3:23), starting the final, 70th, week (7 years) of the prophecy ("he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week" - Dan 9:27). Christ preached for three and a half years (half a week) until He was crucified on Passover ("in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering" - Dan 9:27), thereby sealing the New Covenant ("this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you" - Lk 22:20). Then followed a 40 year period for the Jews to repent (Eze 4:6), after which the Romans destroyed the nation of Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple, and about two thirds of the people, in a three and a half year campaign starting in 67AD and ending halfway through 70AD. This brought the Old Covenant to an end ("in that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away" - Heb 8:13).
Therefore, the entire 70 Week Prophecy has been fulfilled, whereby Christ has forever become the path for repentant sinners to enter into "everlasting righteousness" (Dan 9:24). See the "HOME" page and the "BIBLE CHRONOLOGY" page for more information.
11) Jacob's Trouble
The prophecies found in Jeremiah 30, which in verse 7 refer to "Jacob's trouble", can largely be explained by the devastation that all Israelite countries suffered in World War 2. Some of the elements of this chapter are still future, but "Jacob's trouble" itself is not a future event, as is commonly taught in the Churches of God. Please see the page "JACOB'S TROUBLE" for a more detailed explanation.
12) The Psalm 83 "alliance"
Some of the Churches of God see in Psalm 83 a conglomeration of nations aligning themselves against Israel at some point in the future. Much speculation is made about who might be involved, and when this will come to pass. However, II Chronicles 20 describes a group of nations gathering against the Kingdom of Judah in the days of King Jehoshaphat that adequately fits with the details of Ps 83. At least four major Bible Commentaries, those of Adam Clarke; Matthew Henry; Keil and Delitzsch; and Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, attribute this prophecy to the major events described in II Chron 20. The descendant of Asaph who was used by God to prophecy to Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah at that time, is mentioned by name in II Chron 20:14, and it is most probable that God inspired him to write Psalm 83 as a memorial of this event. See Clarke's Commentary as an example of this explanation: https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-83.html
From the points listed above, we see that the final era of the Church is called "blind" for good reason (Rev 3:17). However, the question stated at the outset remains: Will this blindness have eternal consequences for the people of God?