Have you ever been reading a suspenseful book and peeked at the last page to find out how it ended, or have you ever fast-forwarded a movie to see how the plot was going to develop? Have you ever wished you could do that with time itself—fast forward to find out what’s in store for this world of ours? Well, you can.
The Bible contains hundreds of prophetic glimpses into the future that describe specific people, places, times, events, and world conditions (Amos 3:7). Many of these prophecies are about the time in which we are now living—a period referred to as the end time.
Here is a brief summary of what the Bible indicates is ahead, in chronological order:
Where we are now
1. Signs of the times
The Bible gives numerous signs to watch for so we will know when Jesus’ return is drawing close. These signs include the gospel being preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14), dramatic increases in international travel and scientific knowledge (Daniel 12:4), and a great falling away from the true God (2 Thessalonians 2:3) as ungodliness and perversions proliferate (2 Timothy 3:1-4,13). All of this results in “distress of nations,” with “men’s hearts failing them from fear” of the future (Luke 21:25-26). Clearly these signs are being seen today.
The coming world government
2. The Antichrist
One of the most momentous signs of the end time will be the rise of a godless world government, led by a man whom biblical prophets described in various terms but who is now commonly referred to as the “Antichrist” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; 1 John 2:18). At first many will regard him as a savior because he will appear to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, such as the inequitable distribution of wealth and consumption of resources; long-standing hostilities between nations, ideologies, and religions; exploitation of the poor; and economic instability. He will come to power through intrigue and nonbelligerent means (Daniel 11:21,24), but is in fact a man of war (Daniel 8:23-25). He will be in league with Satan, and in the end will become the embodiment of evil (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:4-8).
3. The covenant
The Antichrist will either initiate or be directly involved in an agreement—a “holy covenant,” as the Bible calls it—that will temporarily bring a measure of peace and security to the world (Daniel 9:27a). The signing of this covenant will signal the start of the last seven years of man’s dominion (Revelation 11:15).
Approximately three and a half years into the agreement, after surviving what sounds like an assassination attempt (Revelation 13:1,3), the megalomaniacal Antichrist will break the covenant, declare himself God, and abolish all other religious worship (Daniel 9:27b; 11:23,28,30b,32,36).
4. The image of the Beast
When the Antichrist breaks the covenant, the mysterious “abomination of desolation” will be erected in the precincts of the rebuilt Jewish temple (Daniel 11:31). In the book of Revelation, the abomination of desolation is called the “image of the Beast,” and it has “power to both speak and cause those that do not worship it to be killed” (Revelation 13:14-15). However, those who willingly comply will be doomed along with the Antichrist upon Christ’s return (Revelation 14:9-10).
Could this image be some sort of cybernetic representation of the Antichrist that is endowed with artificial intelligence?
Big trouble ahead
5. The great tribulation
Jesus said, “When you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place … 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” (Matthew 24:15,21). We know from other passages that the great tribulation will last for three and a half years, or 42 months, or 1260 days (measuring months and years by the ancient standard used in the Bible’s original manuscripts: 30 days per month; 360 days per year). (Daniel 12:7; Revelation 13:5; 11:2-3; 12:6,14).
A monetary system will be put in place under which no one will be able to buy or sell without a personal account number, the “mark of the Beast,” in their hand or forehead—the infamous “666” of the Bible’s book of Revelation (Revelation 13:16-18).
This system could have been in place earlier, but it’s at this time that participation is made mandatory, perhaps tied in with a universal ID system. The mark of the Beast could be issued in the form of a microchip implant containing the individual’s personal data, similar to those already being used to tag people in high security jobs.
The Antichrist will become possessed by Satan, and his government will persecute those who refuse to yield to his dictates (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 12:17). But God will help those who resist the Antichrist, and in their defense will unleash horrific pestilences and plagues on the Antichrist and his followers (Revelation 9:1-6). Two of God’s end time prophets will perform miracles and publicly defy the Antichrist (Revelation 11:3,5-6), and other believers could have similar powers (Daniel 11:32b).
6. Nuclear war
At some point, probably near the end of the great tribulation, the Antichrist and 10 “kings” who join forces with him will destroy the mysterious “Babylon the great” in what sounds like a nuclear holocaust (Revelation 17:3,5,12-13,16-18). Scripture indicates that this Babylon is not the ancient city or empire by that name, but rather the worldwide capitalistic and materialistic system (Revelation 18:2,8-11,19). Today that system is epitomized and led by the USA. Visions received by the prophet Daniel indicate that the 10 kings who join with the Antichrist emerge from the ancient Roman Empire and thus could be from Europe (Daniel 2:40-43; 7:24).
Reversal of fortunes
7. The second coming of Jesus Christ
At the end of the great tribulation—”immediately after the tribulation of those days”—Jesus will return “on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” to rescue those who have received Him as their Savior, commonly referred to as “the saved” (Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 14:14-16). The Antichrist’s forces will be shocked as they see the saved from ages past resurrected in new immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:51-52), and “then we [saved] who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). This event is known as the “rapture.”
8. The marriage supper
Immediately after the rapture, the grandest celebration ever, “the marriage supper of the Lamb,” will be held in heaven (Revelation 19:6-9). The “Lamb” is Jesus (John 1:29), and His “bride” is the saved from all ages—those He has just rescued and those He has resurrected, collectively (Romans 7:4). At the judgment seat of Christ, they will each be rewarded according to what they did with their lives (Matthew 16:27; Romans 14:10b,12; 1 Corinthians 3:13-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10b).
9. The wrath of God
While the marriage supper of the Lamb is happening in heaven, a number of devastating plagues described in the Bible as the “wrath of God” will be happening here, and the Antichrist and his forces will be the targets (Revelation 11:18; 15:6; 16:2-4,8-12,17).
10. The battle of Armageddon
Then, on a plain in what is now northern Israel, the Antichrist will muster his armed forces for his final campaign against the nations that still oppose him. This is the famous “battle of Armageddon,” in which Jesus will return with His heavenly army to defeat and utterly destroy the Antichrist’s forces and deliver those who have opposed his tyranny (Zechariah 14:3-5; Revelation 16:14,16-17; 19:11,14,16).
The Antichrist and his leading henchman, the False Prophet, will both be cast alive into the lake of fire, a place of punishment (Revelation 19:19-21), and Satan will be imprisoned in the “bottomless pit” (Revelation 20:1-3).
11. The millennium
Jesus will set up His kingdom on Earth and rule for 1,000 years over those who have survived the battle of Armageddon and the cataclysms surrounding it—people who were neither followers of the Antichrist nor saved and rescued by Jesus at His return (Daniel 2:44; Revelation 11:15). The resurrected saved from throughout the ages will govern with Jesus (Daniel 7:18,22,27; Revelation 20:4,6), and restoration of the war-damaged world will begin. All wars will cease (Isaiah 2:4), the world will at last be governed justly (Psalm 67:4; 72:3-4; 98:8-9), love for God and others will be the rule of the day (Matthew 22:37-39), and Garden of Eden-like peace and harmony will be restored (Isaiah 11:6-9; 14:7; 65:25; 43:19-20; Hosea 2:18). This period is known as the “millennium.”
12. The battle of Gog and Magog
At the end of the millennium, Satan will be released from the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:3). There will not have been any unbelievers during the millennium, because everyone will have been able to see Jesus (Habakkuk 2:14; Hebrews 8:11), however, there will be those who refuse to receive Jesus as their Savior and submit to His benign but firm rule (Isaiah 26:10), and they will join Satan in an open rebellion that will culminate in the catastrophic battle of Gog and Magog. There the rebel forces will be obliterated (Revelation 20:7-9), and Earth’s entire surface and atmosphere will be purified by fire (2 Peter 3:10-12; Revelation 6:14).
13. The great white throne judgment
Then all of the people from the beginning of time who did not know about or believe in Jesus will be resurrected to stand before God’s throne and be judged. They will be either rewarded or punished according to their works, and will be assigned to their respective stations in the hereafter (Revelation 20:11-13; 21:5-6a). Satan will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
14. A new Earth
Earth’s surface and atmospheric heavens, which were burned up in the battle of Gog and Magog, will then be beautifully recreated, even better than before—truly heaven on earth, “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).
15. The heavenly city
God’s golden heavenly city, the dimensions of which are an astonishing 2,200 km [about 1,400 mi] square at the base and 2,200 km high, will then descend to the recreated Earth (Revelation 21:2; 15-17). It is referred to in the Bible as the “mountain of God” and the “tabernacle of God,” suggesting that it is pyramidical (Zechariah 8:3; Revelation 21:3a). God and Jesus will dwell in that city with those who love and serve Them (Revelation 21:3,7,22; 22:3). Read the Bible’s grand finale, Revelation chapters 21 and 22, for a full description.
And that is the happy ending! Although there are dark days in the near future, we can take heart in knowing that God is in control and a bright, beautiful, eternal tomorrow is not very far away.