Antichrist

Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians was primarily a follow-up to the one he had previously sent them. The topic of Christ’s return remained the central focus of Paul’s communication. Apparently, the Thessalonians were convinced that Jesus was going to return at any moment. Paul told them, “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of the Lord is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). Paul wanted the Thessalonians to understand that the rapture was only one of a series of events that would take place during the end times. He explained, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

Antichrist’s appearance on the religious scene will be evident by his impersonation of God. This will only be possible because God will remove his Holy Spirit from Earth and allow Satan to be in full control of the world during the Great Tribulation (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Paul told the Thessalonians, “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish: because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10). Paul indicated that Antichrist would be successful in establishing his kingdom on Earth because of a deliberate rejection of God’s word. Because unbelief will become the norm, Paul told the Thessalonians, “for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

Paul’s introduction of the man of sin, whom he also referred to as the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3), emphasized the uselessness of Satan’s attempt to overthrow God’s kingdom. Paul referred to Jesus’ second coming when he said that the Lord would consume Antichrist with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The Apostle John described the scene of Antichrist’s defeat in Revelation 19:11-16. Afterward, John said, “The beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:20-21).

The judgment

The covenants God established with Abraham and his descendants were divine pledges to be Israel’s God as her Protector and the Guarantor of her blessed destiny with one condition “Israel’s total consecration to the LORD as His people (His kingdom) who live by his rule and serve His purposes in history” (Major Covenants in the Old Testament). The covenant between God and Israel was initiated at Mount Sinai and was an outgrowth and extension of the Lord’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants 600 years earlier (note on Exodus 19:5). At the time the Sinaitic Covenant was initiated, Moses was given the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and other laws that were to govern the Israelites’ behavior. Afterward, Moses affirmed the covenant when he “took the book of the covenant and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient” (Exodus 24:7).

Jesus’ arrival on Earth marked a transition from the Sinaitic Covenant to the New Covenant which was “an unconditional divine promise to unfaithful Israel to forgive her sins and establish His relationship with her on a new basis by writing His law ‘in their hearts’ – a covenant of pure grace” (Covenants of the Old Testament). Jesus parable of the unrighteous steward (Luke 16:1-13) showed that Israel’s unfaithfulness had brought about a new approach to salvation. Jesus told the Pharisees, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed amongst men is abomination in the sight of God. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:15-16). The point Jesus was making was that John the Baptist concluded the ministry or work of the law and the prophets. From that point forward, God’s grace was being made available to everyone and people were eagerly receiving it.

As he concluded his three-year ministry on Earth, Jesus prepared his disciples for what still lay ahead of them in their mission to save the world. Jesus indicated in his parable of the talents there would be a period of time when he would be absent from the world, but his work of salvation would continue. Then, he would return and establish his kingdom on Earth. According to the book of Revelation, there will be two separate judgments that will take place after Jesus returns. The first takes place before the millennial reign of Christ (Revelation 20:4), and the second judgment takes place afterward. Revelation 20:11-12 states, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the book, according to their works.”

Jesus’ description of the judgment that will take place “when the Son of man shall come in his glory” (Matthew 25:31), could be one or the other of the judgments that are mentioned in Revelation 20, or a different one altogether. It seems likely that Jesus was referring to the great white throne judgment because it signifies the ultimate completion of his work on Earth. Jesus said “before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left…And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:32-33, 46). The basis of this judgment could be the new commandment that Jesus gave his disciples (John 13:34) or the great commandment that was summarized in Mark 12:29-31. Either way, the central focus of Jesus’ judgment will be the love that is shown to others based on the example he gave during his three-year ministry on Earth (Matthew 25:34-40).

Imposters

In what is now referred to as the Olivet discourse, Jesus revealed signs of the end of the age in which non-Jewish believers would be integrated into the kingdom of God. As he began to focus on the Great Tribulation, Jesus warned his disciples that imposters would try to deceive the Jews into thinking their Messiah had arrived. He said, “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or lo, he is there; believe him not: for false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders to seduce, if it were possible even the elect. But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things” (Mark 13:221-23). The Greek word translated seduce, apoplanao, which means “to lead astray” (G635), seems to suggest an evangelistic effort that is not based on the New Testament of the Bible. It could be that the Jews will one day realize they missed their opportunity to receive God’s salvation and will try to obtain salvation through some other means. Jesus’ comment “I have foretold you all things” was probably meant to be a type of line in the sand that marked the end of divine revelation. At the conclusion of his Olivet discourse, Jesus didn’t intend to say anything more about his return to Earth and didn’t want there to be any confusion about whether or not he had left anything out.

The primary reason Jesus warned his followers about imposters that would try to lead them astray was because of the Antichrist’s role in deterring the Jews from inheriting the kingdom of heaven. The term antichrist was introduced around the end of the first century by the Apostle John in his first general epistle to believers. John’s objective was to expose false teachers and give believers assurance of salvation. John said, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). John went on to say, “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (1 John 1:22). John’s reference to the last time was probably not meant to suggest that Jesus’ return was imminent, but that the ministry that Jesus launched was coming to a conclusion. John was the last survivor of the original twelve apostles and was probably nearing the end of his life when he wrote his general epistles. One thing that is certain from John’s message was that before the end of his ministry, it had already become common knowledge that someone known as “antichrist” was going to try and take the place of Jesus as the savior of the world. The imposter will likely have a similar appearance to Jesus as being a compassionate leader, but will deny the authority of God and will try to usurp his power.

The end

Before his departure, Jesus described future events that would signal believers that the end of the world was at hand. Jesus seemed to be concerned that his followers would miss the signs and not be able to tell that his return was imminent. He warned his disciples by saying:

Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24:4-8)

The Greek word translated sorrows in Matthew 24:8, odin (o-deen´) refers to “a pang or throe especially of childbirth” (G5604). Jesus probably used this particular word to convey the idea a long painful process that would end with a joyous moment. Even though the end of life as they knew it was probably a frightful thought to them, Jesus wanted his disciples to know that something good was going to come from it.

As he laid out a framework for the end of time, Jesus indicated there was only one requirement that first had to be fulfilled. He told his disciples “this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14). The preaching of the gospel in all the world was a significant assignment for Jesus’ twelve apostles. Initially, there were only a few people qualified to transmit the message that Jesus entrusted to his followers. Although Mark’s record of this conversation contained the same Greek word that is translated preached in Matthew 24:14, his version was interpreted a little differently. It says in Mark 13:10, “the gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mark 13:10). One of the great hurdles that had to be overcome in order to preach the gospel in all the world was the writing of what we now know as the New Testament of the Bible. Martin Luther, who was the first person to translate the scriptures into plain language that could be understood by the average person, didn’t accomplish that task until 1500 years after Jesus died.

Jesus said the reason the gospel had to be preached in all the world was for a witness unto all the nations (Matthew 24:14). The Greek word translated witness, maturion means something evidential or evidence given (G3142). Jesus probably meant his statement about the preaching of the gospel to be interpreted in connection with his prophecy about the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:15-28). Therefore, it seems likely that the requirement for a witness unto all the nations had something to do with the disappearance of Christians when the rapture took place (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). After all the Christians have been taken out of the world, the Bible will be the only witness left to the fact that the end of the world has come. It is possible that the requirement for the gospel to be preached or published among all nations has now been fulfilled because smart phones, Bible apps, and the internet make information about the end of the world readily available to anyone that wants to know what Jesus said about it.

Signs

The conclusion of Jesus’ ministry marked the beginning of a new age that would continue for an unknown period of time. Since he had already made it known to his followers that his kingdom on Earth would not be established immediately, Jesus’ disciples wanted to know when they should expect his return. Jesus focused their attention on the beginning and ending stages of a time period he referred to as “this generation” (Luke 21:32) so that his followers would be aware of and tracking the most obvious signs of his imminent return. Jesus started by pointing out that the temple in Jerusalem was an important sign or marker of what was about to happen. Luke’s gospel stated, “And as some spake of the temple how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Luke 21:5-6).

Jesus’ prophecy about God’s temple was “fulfilled literally in A.D. 70, when the Romans under Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple buildings. Stones were even pried apart to collect the gold leaf that melted from the roof when the temple was set on fire…Excavations in 1968 uncovered large numbers of these stones, toppled from the walls by the invaders” (note on Matthew 24:2). This significant sign may have marked the official start of what could be referred to as the Gentile age, the time period when Jesus’ gospel would be taken to the world at large. According to the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples just before he ascended to heaven, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The end of the world that Jesus mentioned in his great commission was not the destruction of the physical planet that we live on, but his overthrow of the world systems of government that are currently being managed by Satanic forces. The word Jesus used that is translated world in Matthew 28:20, aion (ahee-ohn´) is properly translated as an age and specifically refers to a Messianic period (G165). There could be a direct correlation between the spread of the gospel and the destruction of Satan’s earthly kingdom. Whenever someone is born again, there is a shift in the population from the number of people that belong to God’s kingdom compared to Satan’s. It is possible there is a tipping point, so to speak, that will trigger Christ’s return. At which time, the end of this age will begin to unfold.

Jesus indicated there would be numerous signs that would mark the end of the age in which his gospel would be spread throughout the world.  He said, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25-27). It seems likely that the signs of Jesus’ return will become more noticeable the closer we get to it happening. Some Bible scholars believe the rapture will take place before an event known as the Great Tribulation and Christians will return with Christ at his second coming (Revelation 19:14). Jesus may have been referring to this when he said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).

Intercessory Prayer

Daniel took it upon himself to intercede for God’s people. According to Jeremiah’s prophecy, the nations would serve the king of Babylon for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11). Daniel knew the seventy years had expired when Darius the Median conquered the Babylonian kingdom in 539 B.C. (Daniel 5:31). Therefore, Daniel prayed that God would forgive his people and return them to the Promised Land. Daniel said, “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Daniel did not presume that God would automatically let his people go back to their homes just because their 70 years of captivity was completed. One of the conditions of their return was that God’s people had to repent of their sins and want to restore their relationship with God. Daniel prayed, “O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries wither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee” (Daniel 9:7).

The phrase Daniel used “confusion of faces” (Daniel 9:7) had to do with the identity of God’s people. In part, God’s righteousness meant that he had acted consistent with his character. It was right for God’s people to be punished. They were guilty of the offences they had been accused of. Their “confusion of faces” was in essence saying God’s people had changed, they were no longer consistent with what God had made them to be. Another way of looking at it would be, that the Israelites were no longer recognizable as God’s people, their identity had been stripped from them. Due to the shame they felt, God’s people most likely did not want to return to their homeland. There was probably some feeling that they no longer deserved God’s blessing. Daniel’s intercessory prayer was a plea for God’s mercy. He said, ” Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our father, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us” (Daniel 9:16).

Daniel made the argument that God should forgive his people “for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel 9:17). In other words, Daniel was saying, don’t do it for us because we don’t deserve your mercy, but do it for the sake of your Messiah that is still yet to be born. Daniel’s intercessory prayer was responded to immediately. It says in Daniel 9:21, “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.” Gabriel told Daniel, “At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou are greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter and consider the vision” (Daniel 9:23). Clearly, Daniel’s prayer reached God’s throne room and was consistent with God’s plan for his people. Gabriel laid out for Daniel a timeline for the Messiah’s birth and crucifixion,  and then told Daniel, there was still more to come after that. A prince would come to challenge Jesus’ authority. He would reign for seven years and would instigate the complete annihilation of the entire world (Daniel 9:27).

 

Personal experience

Daniel’s ability to interpret dreams was useful in his godly ministry to the Babylonian and Persian kings, but it was his own personal experience with dreams and visions that made Daniel unique as a prophet. The last half of Daniel’s book was devoted to the unfolding of God’s plan to establish his eternal kingdom on earth. Daniel’s dream of four beasts (Daniel 7:3) showed that God’s power would be challenged, but remain supreme in spite of the continual onslaughts from kingdoms that wanted to wipe out his people. In his dream, Daniel saw, “the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another” (Daniel 7:2-3). This picture of beasts rising from the sea was intended to portray the establishment of Satan’s earthly kingdom, an inevitable occurrence of something that was not only predicted, but also prearranged by God.

It might be hard to imagine why God would want to help Satan establish his kingdom on earth, unless you understood God’s motive for doing so. God’s agreement with Satan was designed to allow him a prescribed amount of time to undo the work that Jesus did on the cross, so that it could be shown that Satan could not overcome his eternal kingdom. Without God’s kingdom being challenged, there would be no way of knowing if Jesus’ power was sufficient to reign supreme. The four beasts that came up from the sea represented four separate attempts that Satan would make to stop Jesus from saving the world. Three attempts were to be made prior to Jesus’ birth, but the final attempt would come after his kingdom was fully developed (Daniel 7:22). Essentially, the real threat to Jesus’ kingdom was that he would never be born or die on the cross, but once he did, Satan’s eternal fate was sealed.

Daniel’s dream was explained to him by an angel that stood by him as he peered into God’s heavenly realm. Daniel said, “I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things” (Daniel 7:16). The truth that Daniel sought was so troubling that he could barely process the information he was given. Focusing on the fourth beast, Daniel wanted to know how Satan’s kingdom would finally be brought to an end. The angel’s response is recorded in Daniel 7:23-26:

Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.

Daniel learned through personal experience what many today still don’t understand about the end of time. As recorded in the book of Revelation, Satan’s dominion over the earth will last for only three and a half years, during which time the earth will be completely devastated and most of the population wiped out. Afterward, the devil will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where he will spend eternity (Revelation 20:10).

The harvest

Jesus’ ministry on earth consisted of three primary activities: 1) teaching in the synagogues, 2) preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and 3) healing every sickness and disease among the people (Matthew 9:35). Thousands of people sometimes gathered to listen to his teaching. On one occasion, Jesus referred to his work as harvesting. It says in Matthew 9:36-37, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest is truly plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into the harvest.” On another occasion, Jesus told his disciples a parable about the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:24-30) and explained the meaning of the harvest. It says in Matthew 13:37-40, “He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burnt in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.”

Joel’s prophecy about the judgment of Judah’s enemies contained a reference to the final battle between the Lord and all the nations of the world. He said, “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:12-14). I believe Joel used the phrase, “valley of decision” figuratively to refer to the separation of believers from non-believers or as Jesus put it, to separate the wheat from the tares. In the final battle between good and evil, some who were thought to be believers in Jesus Christ may actually turn out to be members of Satan’s kingdom. Perhaps, some who have worked for Satan will switch sides and follow the Lord. Decision implies that a determination will be made at that time. The only way to know for sure whose kingdom someone belongs  to is to wait for the harvest.

 

Complete devastation

The prophet Joel is probably the most mysterious and intriguing of all the Old Testament prophets. Little is known about the time period or background of his message, but it clearly fits in with others like Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s that speak about the end times. Joel uses the phrase “day of the LORD” (Joel 1:15) to refer to the warning he has been commanded to give. What seems clear from the overall content of Joel’s message is that he was given a glimpse into the horrible scene that is portrayed in the book of Revelation. A key indicator of the connection between the two messages is that Joel uses language that fits with the complete devastation that will take place when God judges  the human race.

Joel opens his book with a description of the plague of insects that is similar to the one described in Revelation 9. Joel says:

Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten. Awake ye drunkards, and weep; and howl, all ye drinkers of wine, because of the new wine, for it is cut off from your mouth. For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek-teeth of a great lion. (Joel 1:3-6)

Revelation 9:1-3 introduces the plague of locusts with the suggestion that spiritual warfare is taking place. It says, “And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth: and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit, as the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by reason of the smoke of the pit. And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.”

The Greek word translated power in Revelation 9:3 is exousia. Exousia as a noun, denotes authority which is drawn from the meaning of “leave or permission” (1849). To a certain extent, the power that is being referred to is power that one has the right to exercise, the power of rule or government. Another way of looking at this type of power is freedom or mastery, the ability to take control. I believe Joel’s prophecy was meant to convey the idea of a total loss of control. All of the Israelites’ freedom would be taken away and they would become subject to another form of government, a satanic one that would prohibit their worship of God.

The good news hidden within Joel’s message was that God would not allow his people to become a part of Satan’s kingdom. Joel declared, “Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come” (Joel 1:15). The Hebrew term Almighty or Shadday (shad – dah´ – ee) is a title that signifies ultimate power and authority, but in actuality, “the title Shadday really indicates the fullness and riches of God’s grace, and would remind the Hebrew reader that from God comes every good and perfect gift – that He is never weary of pouring forth His mercies on His people, and that He is more ready to give than they are to receive” (7706).

The day of the LORD

The prophet Zephaniah talked about the day of the LORD as if it could happen at any moment (Zephaniah 1:7). This was probably because he was looking at it from an eternal perspective. The phrase “day of the LORD” can refer to any time the Lord openly intervenes in the affairs of man. Thus it often applies to separate events in different time periods (footnote on Zephaniah 1:7). Zephaniah’s ministry took place during the reign of king Josiah, not long before Judah was taken into captivity in Babylon. Therefore, his prophecies had a certain amount of correlation to Judah’s current circumstances, but his overall message was about the end times.

The nation of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. At that time, the nation ceased to exist. The people that were taken into captivity eventually returned and reestablished their legal and worship systems, but they did not have a king to rule over them. Zephaniah made it clear in his message that the day of the LORD he was referring to was the final destruction of not only Judah, but also the entire world (Zephaniah 1:2). Zephaniah said, “I will utterly consume all things from off the land, saith the LORD. I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumblingblocks with the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the land, saith the LORD” (Zephaniah 1:2-3).

Judah’s captivity was to a certain extent an illustration of God’s judgment of the world. Living in peace and prosperity for hundreds of years had desensitized the people to the reality of their sinful condition. The kings of Judah had managed to keep the nation stable during the expansion of the Assyrian empire, giving everyone the impression that God’s chosen people were immune to punishment. More than 200 years had transpired since Isaiah had first begun to warn the people of Judah of God’s anger towards them. Because they had been spared from going into captivity in Assyria with the northern kingdom of Judah, the people of Judah were probably thinking they could escape God’s wrath indefinitely.

In order to make the  people understand that there would be an end to their special treatment, Zephaniah spoke in terms of all things and all people being consumed by the LORD. It was only through the association of God’s people with the heathen of the world that they could see themselves as sinners. Zephaniah used language that conveyed a sense of urgency so that the people of Judah would realize that time was of the essence if they were to avoid getting caught up on the destruction that was about to take place. Unlike other prophetic messages the people may have heard in the past, Zephaniah warned of a sudden ending that would catch even the most valiant warrior off guard. He said, “The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly” (Zephaniah 1:14).