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 who constitute 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's return for what it is, 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
A perusal of Bible Commentaries written in centuries past reveals that the general consensus in former days was that this prophecy was for the most part fulfilled in the first century AD. It is only in the last 150 or so years that the common view has projected the "great tribulation" into the future. This event is described in the "Olivet prophecy" of Matt 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, which is a Jerusalem focused prophecy.
The "great tribulation" was centred in the time period of 67 to 73AD, when a large Roman army led by general Vespasian attacked Israel, and subsequently his son, Titus, took command and totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD, 40 inclusive years after the Jews had rejected and killed Christ. This war is usually referred to as "The Jewish War" or "The First Jewish Revolt". Its final battle was the 73AD conquest of the last remaining Jewish fighters at the fortress of Masada, in the south-east of Israel near the Dead Sea.
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" (v 24, i.e. 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), not the whole world. All people had to do to escape this calamity was to leave "Judea" and "flee to the mountains" (Matt 24:16), which is exactly what the Christians did when an initial Roman assault on Jerusalem in 66AD was rebuffed, giving them time to save their lives.
Great confusion also results from misinterpreting the word "end" in Matt 24:14, which states "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". The commentaries of Matthew Henry, Adam Clarke, and Jamieson, Fausset, Brown all agree that this verse is about the New Covenant gospel beginning to become established, and going out into the world by the preaching of the apostles, after which all things associated with the Old Covenant in Jerusalem were destroyed and came to an "end" in 70AD. Hence Christ logically continues in the next verse "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).
Even if one were to argue that the prophecy requires the gospel to have first been preached to an audience called "all the world", note that the Biblical writers already in their time considered the gospel to have gone "throughout the whole world" (Rom 1:8), been "made known to all nations" (Rom 16:26), "in all the world" (Col 1:6), and been "preached unto every creature under heaven" (Col 1:23). This shows that our understanding of the terminology used in Scripture, may not necessarily be the same as what the authors had in mind.
Another verse in the Olivet prophecy that causes modern interpreters to fall into error is Matt 24:34: "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place". The term "this generation" is usually, incorrectly, understood to mean our generation today.
However, apart from the Olivet prophecy, the Gospels record 23 occurrences of Christ using the word "generation", and every one of them pertains to the people He was talking to then and there. In Matthew alone the word is used ten times. See the page "THE OLIVET PROPHECY" for examples of this.
In addition to all the above information, 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" for more information.
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 successive 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, and ending with the soon coming return of Christ to Jerusalem. See the page "THE HISTORICAL 7TH SEAL (THE 7 TRUMPETS)".
5) The Kings of the North and the South
These powers, described in Dan 11, denote the Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Seleucid Empire which arose after the time of Alexander the Great and preceded the emergence of the Roman Empire, prior to the first coming of Christ. There are no remaining unfulfilled prophecies concerning these powers. See "DANIEL 2 - INTERPRETATION ERRORS", and "DANIEL 11 & 12 - KINGS OF 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 16:13, 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 200 Million Man Army
This number of military personnel is mentioned in Rev 9:16 as part of the sixth trumpet of the seventh seal, in the book of Revelation. In general, the COG's see in this a coming conglomerate of forces made up from a variety of nations. However, they fail to notice that World War I had over 70 million combatants and World War II had just under 130 million, making a total of 200 million. These two wars together led to the defeat of the Gentile powers that ruled the Holy Land, and the end of "Christian" state persecution of the Jews, exactly when the Jews' 2520 years of punishment came to an end. This in turn facilitated the return of the Jews to their country, an event frequently prophesied about in Scripture. Please see "THE TWO WITNESSES" and "THE HISTORICAL 7TH SEAL (THE 7 TRUMPETS) for more information.
11) The Seventy Week Prophecy
Most branches of the Church believe that a portion of this prophecy in Dan 9:24-27 is yet to be fulfilled. Some think 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:
Daniel 9:25 states "from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks". 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 follow 62 weeks (434 years) leading up to the birth of Christ (a total of 483 years): "And after the sixty-two weeks shall the Messiah be cut off (from His existence as a God being), and shall have nothing" (Dan 9:26 ASV, NIV). In other words, He went from His existence as an all powerful God, to being a mere human embryo. Thus we can see that the prophecy bridges the time gap between the OT and NT Scriptures.
Numbers 4:3 stipulates that those who enter the service of the house of God must be 30 years of age, and so there is a 30 year time gap from Christ's birth until He begins His three and a half year ministry (Lk 3:23). After His resurrection there follows a 40 year period for the Church to be set up, and for the Jews to repent (Eze 4:6).
Towards the end of this period the Roman "prince that shall come" (first Vespasian, then his son Titus, and two more rulers after Titus) attacked the Holy Land ("upon thy people and upon thy holy city") and "shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" (Jerusalem and the Temple), and about two thirds of the people (Zech 13:7-8, Rev 8:7 NIV), in a seven year campaign starting in 67AD and ending in 73AD. This fulfils the 70th week (seven years) of the prophecy ("he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week") (All quotes from Dan 9:24-27).
In 70AD, the middle year of this seven year war, Titus' army demolished God's Temple ("in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering" - Dan 9:27). This destruction of everything associated with the Old Covenant did, at the same time, "confirm" the New Covenant that had been established by Christ on the day of His death ("this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you" - Lk 22:20).
In Matt 24:15-16 and Luke 21:20-21, Christ warns his followers to flee before the final "week" or seven year Roman campaign that was to begin in 67AD. He does this based on the second half of Dan 9:27. Correctly translated this reads "And on the perimeter (of Jerusalem) abomination of desolation (Jerusalem surrounded by armies - Lk 21:20), before the end which is decreed is poured out on the desolate". This was fulfilled by the initial unsuccessful assault on Jerusalem in 66AD by Cestius Gallus and his forces, and Josephus tells us that the warning was indeed heeded by many.
The destruction of the Temple also fulfilled Heb 8:13 which states (having been written prior to the 66-73AD events) "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".
The entire Seventy Week Prophecy has therefore been fulfilled, and Christ has forever become the door for repentant sinners to enter and attain "everlasting righteousness" (Dan 9:24). See the chart on the "HOME" page and the "BIBLE CHRONOLOGY" page for more information.
12) "Gog" in Ezekiel 38 and 39
The identity of "Gog of the land of Magog" in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is Antiochus IV Epiphanes, leader of the Seleucid Empire in the second century BC. Major Bible commentators came to this conclusion hundreds of years ago, and many facts attest to this identification. So much for all the wild ideas held by Futurists regarding this prophecy today. For more on this please see the page "GOG IN EZEKIEL 38 AND 39.
13) Jacob's Trouble
The prophecies found in Jeremiah 30, which in verse 7 refer to "Jacob's trouble", can be explained by the suffering that people from all Israelite countries endured in World War 2. This 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.
14) The Psalm 83 "alliance"
Some of the Churches of God see in Psalm 83 a conglomerate 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 prophesy 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?