East and will gain power in the area including Jerusalem. The temple of God will be rebuilt on the ancient Temple Mount. The anti-Christ will make some sort of covenant or agreement with the people of Israel. Jewish worship will be restored at the temple, including the sacrifice of animals as was the practice before the Temple's destruction at the hand of the Romans during the first century. All of the Jews worldwide will return to Israel, according to some of these interpretations. There will be a seven year period marking the anti-Christ's rule, and in the middle of those seven years he will break his covenant with Israel. There will be some sort of worldwide dictatorship inflicting tribulation on the whole planet.
Historically, the predominant teaching in the Christian Church has been post-tribulation. But the late twentieth century saw a swing toward pre-tribulation thinking in Christian preaching and writing. So, probably the most popular theory today is that there will be a sudden and unexpected rapture of believers, followed by a seven year tribulation period. There are then no Christians left on earth, since they have all been caught away to be with the Lord, and the unbelievers who are 'left behind' must struggle to deal with their disappearance and with the evil world rulership of an individual antichrist. According to this understanding, the predicted international attack on Jerusalem does not occur until the end of the seven years.
Regardless of whether the attack on Jerusalem occurs then or much earlier, it would be hard to deny that the United Nations began laying the groundwork for it back in 1947 when General Assembly Resolution 181 called for international control over the city. (See the details elsewhere in this book.) Subsequent resolutions rebuking Israel have been based on this original demand, and future resolutions at the time of the foretold international attack will, no doubt, be rooted in this long history of U.N. concern about the status of Jerusalem. Back in 1947 it was an agenda item of interest to some; in our day Jerusalem has truly become a problem for the whole world, as Zechariah predicted.
Some may be inclined to think that Jesus' words about "Jerusalem surrounded by armies" (Luke 21:20)
apply, not to the end times before Armageddon, but rather to the destruction of the city by the Romans, which took place just decades after the crucifixion. And some of what Jesus said in that lengthy passage may indeed apply only to those first century events. But much of what he said must also have had a wider meaning, a meaning aimed specifically at the end of the world. In this sermon Jesus gave that was recorded in Matthew 24 and Luke 21, he was answering a three-part question from his disciples:
"Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.' As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. 'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?'" (Matthew 24:1-3 NIV)
So, although part of his answer related to when the stones of the temple would be thrown down -- an event that occurred within the lifetime of those who heard him speak -- other parts of his answer related to "your coming and the end of the age." He gave signs to look for that would indicate when "the end will come" (Matthew 24:14), when "They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. " (Matthew 24:30) when "your Lord will come" (Matthew 24:42) when "the kingdom of God is near." (Luke 21:31) These would be events that would reach far beyond Jerusalem and that would "come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth." (Luke 21:35) (NIV)
These prophecies are not provided so that we will know ahead of time exactly what will happen and exactly when. Rather, they are provided so that we will know that God knows exactly what will happen, and so that this knowledge will motivate us to put our trust in Him.
Prophecy is usually best understood in retrospect. We may have twenty-twenty hindsight in our understanding of fulfilled prophecy, but seldom do we have twenty-twenty foresight as to how the remaining prophecies will be fulfilled.
This fact is abundantly clear from the failure