Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Sign of the End

What could possibly signal the end of the world? The only clearly discernible sign that Jesus gave his disciples was the Abomination spoken of by Daniel. Earthquakes, famines, wars, and even the fulfillment of the Great Commission are all signs Jesus cited, but they all lack the precision of Daniel's sign. When an event which occurs repetitively in a series, or is the accumulation of a running total, how can we know if any particular occurrence or addition was the last one without some telling detail?

For instance, what marks the conclusion of the Great Commission? Is it possible to discern when the last one who needs to be reached in order for it to be completed has been reached? The Abomination of Desolation, in contrast, is well defined, and even though occurring twice, is distinctive enough not to be confused between one occurrence and the other. Though it has already been modeled for us, as it was for Christ, by Antiochus Epiphanes, there will be no way to miss its ultimate fulfillment in the days of the Antichrist.

The description of this event, as recorded in Daniel 11, starts with the advent of Antiochus Epiphanes at verse 21, but ends with the actions of the Antichrist starting with verse 36 and moving into chapter 12. In effect, the actual, specific occurrence of the Abomination of Desolation (v. 31) is the fulcrum of a prophetic teeter-totter. On one end is the antetype, Antiochus Epiphanes, and how he relates to the prophecy. On the other end, is the antitype, the Antichrist and how he relates to the prophecy, and the middle references both of their involvements.

It's almost as if Daniel 11 was a preview trailer tracking at normal historical speed until the fulcrum was reached. At that point the reel was fast-forwarded until the time of its secondary and ultimate fulfillment occurred, then normal speed resumed. If that sounds a bit stretched to you, I understand your reticence. However, Jesus said there was still life in the prophecy, despite being fully familiar with the history of Antiochus, the Maccabees, and the battles between the Ptolemies and Seleucids. It seems to me, to understand something of this nature one has to invoke the concept of dual fulfillment.

John, the Revelator, saw the same event from the isle of Patmos millenia before its ultimate fulfillment. Strangely enough, even his insight was presaged by antetype within the Book of Daniel. God must have wanted to get the point across unmistakably to repeat it so many times from so many different vantage points. No wonder when asked what would be the sign of the end, Jesus said this would be it, and yet we still seem, by and large, to be in the dark about what definitively signals the end.