One of the primary passages that describes the end times is Matthew 24. In this chapter, the disciples ask Jesus what will be the signs of the end of the age. He answers in verses 4–12 by saying:
"See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold."
Ever since Jesus ascended back into heaven, we have been living in the end times, because we have been awaiting His return and seeing these signs on a consistent basis. Wars continue to break out; famines, earthquakes, and other natural disaster become progressively more commonplace; Christians continue to face persecution—all of these are signs of the end times. The earth groans and cries out for the redemption and restoration that will occur when Jesus returns (Romans 8:20–23). Second Timothy 3:1–5 outlines the characteristics of people in the last days, and throughout all of them we see the common thread of selfishness—loving oneself rather than loving God or others.
Many people think of the end times as the seven-year tribulation immediately preceding Jesus' second coming. Things on the earth will be increasingly worse until that time, and exponentially worse during those seven years. It is during the seven-year tribulation that the Antichrist will rise to power and essentially rule over the world (Revelation 6—18). At the same time, God will pour out judgment on the earth.
With the prominent rise of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), also known as ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and IS (Islamic State), and the abhorrent behaviors associated with this group, some Christians have questions if this is a sign of a new level of the end times. ISIS has brutally taken control of much of Syria and Iraq, has conducted terrorist attacks throughout the world, and has murdered many Middle Eastern Christians (and others) by beheading, which makes many Christians think of Revelation 20:4 and how it says the Antichrist will behead Christians during the tribulation.
The Bible speaks of the Antichrist in a few different ways—one as the world ruler of the tribulation (Revelation 13) and the other as a general reference to any spirit or person who denies Christ (1 John 2:22; 2 John 1:7). The spirit of the antichrist is already at work within the world: "And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already" (1 John 4:3). First John 2:18 says: "Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour."
As more groups like ISIS form, more antichrist figures arise. While we cannot pinpoint ISIS as a specific catalyst for a new level of the end times, we can confidently say that it exemplifies all the elements of darkness that point to the end times and to the need for Jesus to return. The main thing is that we keep ourselves ready for the return of Christ: "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. . . Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (Matthew 24:36–44).
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