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A beginner's guide to the end times

Prophecy specialists, all claiming the authority of Scripture, disagree about such details as whether Jesus will return to Earth before or after a 1,000-year period of Christian prosperity. Most, however, agree on certain major events. Here is the scenario described by those who believe he will return before the millennial period to save followers from a chaos about to ensue.

The Rapture

Amid political and religious turmoil on Earth, Jesus descends from Heaven to resurrect the bodies of believers who have died and to transform living believers into a "glorious presence" that lasts for eternity.

Rise of the Antichrist

The disappearance of millions of people leaves the world in chaos, and leaders of various countries call for a single, international government to bring peace and economic stability. To run this one-world operation, they select a charismatic leader who in reality is a puppet of Satan (or Satan himself).

The Great Tribulation

This seven-year "hell on earth" begins with the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and the Antichrist, who orders the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Forty-two months later, he announces on the Temple Mount that he, not Jesus, is the Messiah and begins gathering armies for a forceful takeover of Israel.

Armageddon

At the end of the tribulation, enemies of Israel amass on its northern border and fight one of several great battles against the Israelis and their allies in the valley below Har Megiddo (Armageddon). Satan's forces push their opponents back to Jerusalem, where they are cornered in a small valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives.

Glorious Appearing

Jesus hears the cries for help and descends on the Mount of Olives to lead the Israeli troops — most of whom profess belief in him as Messiah — to victory. Jesus chains Satan in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years, during which time he establishes a kingdom on Earth.

Satan's Revolt

Satan is released and starts a rebellion of non-believing holdouts. In the final battle of Good vs. Evil, Jesus rains death and destruction on Satan and his minions and casts them into a lake of everlasting fire.

The Eternal State

Jesus creates a new heaven and a new Earth, with the New Jerusalem as its capital for all who have achieved eternal life. The city floats through space and is a cube, each side 1,400 miles square — large enough to hold 100 trillion souls.


Sources: "Are We Living in the End Times?" by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins; "The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy," by Mark Hitchcock