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Is Prophecy Being Fulfilled Now?
Is Prophecy Being Fulfilled Now?
S A Campbell
Many are rightly outraged by the cold blooded murder of people by Islamic terrorists for no reason, other then that they were not Muslim. While this barbaric act offends most of the civilized world and should be condemned we are here interested in the matter of those that professed a belief in G-d and Jesus. While in and of itself this barbaric behavior should offend and outrage us we need to be aware of the possibility that these acts are end-time prophecy being fulfilled and also are the precursors of even more horrific events and loss of life.
We need to begin in the Book of Revelation to determine if we are seeing end-time events being fulfilled. Our search begins in chapter 6 of the book. Before we begin our examination a little back ground as to what has occurred in the book prior to this point. We are told in the first chapter that the writer, John, was on the island of Patmos (Rev. 1:9) and was, shall we say, contacted by Jesus and shown a number of visions that relate to what is known as the Day of the Lord. Actually the visions pertain to the events leading up to the Day of the Lord (i.e. the Great Tribulation), the Day of the Lord and in a very general fashion some important events that occur after the Day of the Lord. However before he is shown these visions Jesus directs him to write letters to seven churches that existed in the Roman providence known as Asia. modern day Turkey. (Rev. Chapters two and three). After he has received the messages he is to transmit to the seven churches he sees a door in heaven open and he is summoned. (Rev. 4:1) John finds himself in spirit before the throne of G-d (vs. 2-11). John then tells of seeing that the being seated on the throne is holding a sealed scroll (5:1) and after a brief discussion on who is worthy to open the scroll it is announced that the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" (i.e. Jesus Christ) had been deemed worthy (vs. 2-5). Jesus steps forward, takes the scroll (vs. 7) and begins to open the seals (6:1).
In rather rapid fashion John relates what he sees when the first four seals are opened. He writes of observing four different colored horses (commonly called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). And we are now up to the point where we wish to begin our investigation, with the opening of the fifth seal. Upon the opening of the fifth seal John saw "under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? 11 And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled." (vs. 9-11)
We must learn about the "fellow servants" that are slated to die as they had to determine if the events we are currently witnessing are prophesied events that indicate we are closing quite rapidly upon the onset of the Day of the Lord. We find this answer in Chapter 20 of Revelation; this chapter begins with the start of the 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ (i.e. the Millennium); the dreadful Day of the Lord has ended, Christ has returned and Satan has been bound and temporally restrained. In verse four John writes "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands..." Notice that both of these peoples were killed for the word of G-d and the testimony of Jesus; obviously this group that John sees seated on thrones must be the "fellow servants" mentioned in Chapter 6. And notice how this second groups was murdered; they were beheaded!
Recall that to the first group, when they were seen crying to G-d to avenge their deaths they are told that their fellow servants must die as they had. While the manner of death of the second group is clearly identified (i.e. beheading) it is implied by the wording of how the first group was murdered. The word translated as "slain" in Revelation 6:9 (the souls of them that were slain) is sphazō and it means to slay, slaughter butcher. In verse 11 (fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were) the word rendered as "be killed" is apokteinō and it means essentially to kill. However apokteinō comes from apo and kteino (to slay). Apo means to separate; whether it be physical or mental. It requires little imagination to see that beheading someone most certainly entails a separation of a part from the whole.
It should also be pointed out how in responding to the cries of the first group G-d mentions two types of victims; their fellow servants and their brethren. One needs to know that initially the New Testament church was simply an offshoot of the Jewish religion. It wasn't until the start of Paul's ministry that the Gospel was actively preached to the Gentile world. Regarding the writer of Revelation, while as was mentioned above there is dispute as to whom the writer is, most experts agree that whomever it was he was a Jewish Christian. And we see these two groups as part of the victims of this barbaric terrorist actions; Christians (fellow servants) and Jews (brethren).
So if these events we are seeing is what was prophesied in Revelation then we must wonder where in the prophesied sequence of events are we at? While an exact pinpointing is beyond our ability we can gain a rough idea as to where we are and how close to the beginning of the dreadful Day of the Lord we might be.
Let us begin with the later group of victims since determining their location in the time line of prophesied events is a little easier to achieve. While by placing them we can not say that it will happen on such and such a date, however we can locate them in a general sense as to when it will happen. John allows us to locate them when he writes of the reason they were murdered was because they "had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands" (Rev. 20:4). According to Revelation this is the final beast that will arise, aided by what is called the False Prophet, and will literally enslave the world; enslave not by force necessarily, but by a counterfeit religion through which the world will be deceived (Matt. 24:24; Rev. 13:14; 19:20). It is this beast, allied with the False Prophet, that will so successfully deceive the world that they will cause them to fight against Jesus when he returns (Rev. 19:19). Obviously this is an event that has yet to occur.
Turning to the first group that John saw we need to briefly examine the events that the first four seals depicted. To understand the symbolism of the first four seals (aka the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse) we need to turn to Jesus himself in the 24th Chapter of Matthew.
While in the Temple some of Jesus' disciples voiced their amazement to Jesus about the magnificent building of the Temple complex. Jesus informs them that the Temple will be destroyed, totally razed, that not one stone will be left standing one upon another (Matt. 24:2). A little later the disciples asked him when this would occur and what would be the sign of his coming and the end of the age. (vs. 3) Jesus told them of things that were going to happen; 1) false Christs will arise, 2) wars and rumors of wars, and 3) famines and earthquakes. We find a connection to the first four seals. The white horseman was described riding a white horse and having a bow; and a crown; when compared with the image of Jesus upon his return we read that while he is riding a white horse John also writes that he is wearing many crowns, not one, and that he is armed with a sword (actually this is symbolic of the word of G-d) not a bow. So this first horseman is actually a close but false image of Jesus. The second horse is red and his rider is given authority to take peace from the earth and he was given a great sword; wars and rumors of wars. The third horse is described as being black and its rider is holding a balance and announces a cost for a small amount of food; famines. The fourth horse is pale and his rider is death! He is given "power...over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth", obviously one sure result of the first three horsemen will be death. But the ominous part of this prophecy is that Jesus said that this is "but the beginning of the birth-pangs." (Matt. 24:8)
Jesus then speaks of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (vs. 9-20) and then he speaks of the events leading up to his second coming and the close of this age (vs. 21-28). He speaks of a great tribulation that will engulf the earth; so great that if G-d did not intervene that all life would be destroyed. Obviously this part of the prophecy is now speaking of our current period since not until the advent of nuclear weapons has the ability to destroy all life on the planet existed and with the growing proliferation of nuclear weapons this threat increases.
It is these events, the "birth pangs", that precede the vision of the souls crying for G-d's vengeance. One might contend that people have been put to death for their belief in G-d; Jew and non-Jew so how can we say that this vision is dealing specifically with the events we are witnessing today? The key is in G-d's answer to their cries. He tells them "that they should rest yet for a little season" (Rev. 6:11). They are told to rest for a short time (i.e. a little season). Generally it is felt that the events of the Day of the Lord will cover a span of seven years and it appears that the killing of the other brethren and fellow servants will happen at the end of this period (Rev. 11:7). Determining just how long a "short time" may be is a personal choice but it obviously won't be decades or centuries so these two killings of G-d's people will happen relatively close together; somewhere in the range of a few years.
Whether these events we are witnessing are those that were prophesied in Revelation or not they should outrage us . However if they are what has been prophesied we must ask just how much longer before the trumpets begin to sound. For the next seal to be opened, the sixth, signals the beginning of the Day of the Lord (Rev. 6:12-17). "For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (vs. 17) It will be a time of darkness and fear where G-d pours out his wrath upon mankind for our disobedience; some have estimated that the death toll during this period will be close to 3/4s of the human race! But we are assured that those who endure to the end will be saved (Matt. 24:13; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21). We are clearly told how we may escape suffering G-d's wrath (Rev. 14:12; 22:14).
 The general theory among most Christian denominations is that Revelation was written by the Apostle John and that it was written sometime around 90 AD. While it is not the intention of this paper to discuss the validity of these claims let it be said there is evidence that suggests that the John mentioned in the opening of the book is John the apostle. Really it doesn't matter who actually wrote the words the true author is G-d.