Are We Living in the Last Days? - Part 1
Good News Magazine
August 1976
Volume: Vol XXV, No. 8
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Are We Living in the Last Days? - Part 1
Brian Knowles  

The Handwriting Is on the Wall: Did you ever wonder where that enigmatic expression originated? The answer does not lie in twentieth-century graffiti but in the pages of your Bible!

   Over two millennia ago, during the twilight of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, a series of strange events changed the course of history. King Belshazzar held a mammoth banquet and invited all of his subordinate rulers to attend (Dan. 5:1). During the festivities, Belshazzar used the gold and silver vessels originally taken from Solomon's Temple by Nebuchadnezzar (II Chron. 36:7; Dan. 5:2). The king, the rulers, wives and concubines then drank from the vessels and praised the pagan gods of Babylon.
   This unfortunate act showed contempt and disdain for the religion of Israel and constituted an open affront to God Himself. At the very height of this pagan orgy of self-indulgence, God determined to act.
A Strange Phenomenon. King Belshazzar was suddenly frozen with fear as a bizarre phenomenon took place before his very eyes. The color drained from his flushed face as he watched a dismembered hand begin to write some mysterious symbols on the wall near where he stood. The king was unable to decipher the enigmatic writing.
   Trembling with fear, he called for his wise men and wizards. He promised the position of " third ruler in the kingdom" to anyone who could determine the meaning of the handwriting that was on the palace wall. None could provide the answer.
   The king and his staff were perplexed. No one could be found who could determine the meaning of the writing. Finally the queen suggested that Daniel the Jew be brought in.
Enter Daniel. To make a long story short, Daniel, by God's inspiration, was able to give the king the meaning of the words. They read: "Mene, mene, tekel, and parsin" (Dan. 5:25).
   Each word indicated a weight. Mene was a "mina." Tekel represented a "shekel." And parsin was two "half-minas." These words could also be read as verbs: "to number," "to weigh," and "to divide." Thus the interpretation by Daniel: "... God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end... you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting... your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians "'(verses 26-28).
   Belshazzar had made the fatal mistake of publicly dishonoring the very God who gave him the breath of life (verse 23). He had openly and flagrantly insulted God by using the sacred vessels from God's Temple (which building Jesus later called "my Father's house") in an orgy of pagan worship. In addition, the king had figuratively thumbed his nose at the divinely originated religion of Israel and at the "holy nation" itself.
   As a result, the "Neo-Babylonian "empire disappeared into the sands of history and a new empire — the Medo-Persian — emerged in its place.
   The handwriting that had been on the palace wall had signaled the end of a kingdom and the dawning of a new age.
Another Kingdom. Today, it would seem, the handwriting is once again on the wall. Another kingdom is about to fall and a new age will dawn.
   The kingdom that is about to fall is not a human kingdom, though human beings are among the subjects of that kingdom.
   The wicked kingdom that is soon to fall is the kingdom of the devil. And the handwriting has been "on the wall" for centuries — in the pages of your Bible. Before we look into the specific prophecies concerning the fall of that kingdom, let's look into the nature of it.
   Paul wrote of "the god of this world." He said: "... The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (II Cor. 4:4). Who is it who has blinded and deceived this world? The apostle John answers: "And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world..." (Rev. 12:9).
   It is Satan who has blinded this world to the truth of the gospel. It is he who is the "prince of this world" (John 12:31, KJV). This "present evil world" is not of God's making — it is Satan's system! He is its god. He is its ruler and deceiver. In the well-known temptation incident in the wilderness, we find the devil offering Christ "all of the kingdoms of the world" if He would only fall down and worship him (Matt. 4:8, 9).
   Jesus did not argue with the devil's right to offer those earthly kingdoms — He simply refused the offer! This present society and all human societies since the Garden of Eden owe their state of spiritual darkness to the devil and his angelic followers. He is the great Deceiver. He is a perpetrator of human pain and suffering. He is, in the ultimate sense, a source of conflict and war within human society. He is Apollyon — the Destroyer (Rev.9:11).
The First Rebellion. Satan and his high-ranking demonic assistants wield influence and power in this present society. Originally, they were faithful servants of God. But they were not content with the domain over which God had placed them. They rebelled against their Creator. They now exist in a state of spiritual darkness awaiting the final judgment" of God. Jude wrote of them in verse 6 of his brief letter: "And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day."
   Satan and his angels, now known as demons, are "in chains." That is, they are restrained from wielding their full powers.
   Notice also II Peter 2:4: "... God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment."
   The Greek word translated "hell" here is tartarus. It indicates a state or condition of restraint. (This is the only place in the Bible where the word is used.) Satan and his demonic followers can do no more than God allows. If Satan had his way, he would immediately destroy God's human creation — but God has held him in check. The devil and his fallen angels can only do what God allows. This important point is fully explained in our free reprint article "WHY Must Men SUFFER?" God's angels, led by Michael and Gabriel, are revealed in Scripture to be far more powerful than Satan and his demons. This is largely because they have the direct backing of God Himself. God limits the powers of Satan and his kingdom, as is revealed in the book of Job (Job 1, 2).
Daniel's Vision. The book of Daniel contains an interesting and valuable revelation concerning angelic activities in the realm of human kingdoms.
   The scene opens in the third year of Cyrus, king of Persia (Dan. 10:1). Daniel had been given a vision. He desperately wanted to know the meaning of the vision. He fasted and prayed for a period of three weeks (verses 2, 3). God heard his prayer and sent a high-ranking angel — probably Gabriel, who has often been used as God's message bringer (Luke 1:19-38) — to reveal the meaning of the vision to Daniel. In the course of the angel's explanation, an interesting insight into the goings-on of the spiritual world is provided: "Then he said to me, 'Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your mind to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia and came to make you understand what is to befall your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come'" (Dan. 10:12-14).
   Who is this mysterious prince of Persia? Who is Michael? Michael is called "one of the chief princes." He is obviously one of God's representatives — not a follower of Satan. Elsewhere in the Bible we find that Michael is revealed to be one of the "covering cherubs" — one of the angelic beings who covered the throne of God with his wings (Ezek. 28:16). Apparently, there were originally three such cherubs — Lucifer, Michael (Israel's "prince" — Dan. 12:1), and Gabriel. These three were the "chief princes" among God's angels. Lucifer, Gabriel and Michael may have each ruled over one third of the angels. When Lucifer rebelled, and became known as "Satan" (the adversary), he took one third of the angels with him (Rev. 12:4). Indications are that the remaining two thirds of the angelic host remained loyal to God and to Michael and Gabriel. It is possible that Satan himself was the enigmatic "prince of Persia" referred to in Daniel 10. Satan is the "god of this world" and Persia was the dominant world kingdom at the time.
   These two remaining cherub-rank angels may have been symbolized by the two pure-gold cherubim that covered the mercy seat in the tabernacle in the wilderness (Ex. 25:17-22). Lucifer was dropped from his office as a "covering cherub" following his pre-Adamic rebellion. (Read our free booklet Did God Create a Devil? It will explain the origin of Satan and his original rebellion.)
   If this explanation of Daniel 10 is correct, then we see that there are high-ranking angels who follow Lucifer and often influence the activities of the rulers of the kingdoms of this world! Is it any wonder that God calls Satan the "prince of this world"! Michael, on the other hand, is Israel's "prince" (Dan. 12:1). He takes care of God's interests in terms of Israel.
   As God works out His purposes in the human realm, Satan, the temporary god of this world, along with his angels, opposes Him. God is infinitely more powerful than Satan and, in the final analysis, there is no contest. God always triumphs!
Satan's Ministers. Yet today Satan has his representatives at every stratum of human society. He broadcasts his insidious message into the hearts and minds of millions. Even the world of religion is filled with the ministers of Satan. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "... Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants [ministers, KJV] also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (II Cor. 11:14-15).
   Satan's ministers often appear righteous. They will most often appropriate God's name to impart authority to their ministry. But in reality they are the servants of Satan.
   Such ministers have even, on occasion, performed actual miracles! But the power to perform these deceptive miracles has not originated with God but with the devil. Down through the ages superstitious believers have been deceived by "lying wonders" and deceptive miracles. Bleeding madonnas and visions of so-called "saints" along with other bizarre "miracles" have duped a gullible populace since the beginnings of human history. But God has not been involved in these pointless manifestations of the spirit world. They have been of the devil and his followers and ministers.
Upsurge in Spiritism. Today, interest in the metaphysical world is at an all-time high for this period in history. Astrology and horoscopes, seances, ESP, poltergeists, and other phenomena fascinate modern man. And curiosity may soon kill the cat! (For more information on these spiritist activities, read our free booklet The Occult Explosion - What Does It Mean?)
   God reveals that there will be an increase in occult activities in the end time. The stage may even now be set for a dazzling display of Satanic, "miracle-working" power that will stagger the imagination!
   Just prior to the return of Jesus Christ, "unclean spirits" (demons) will be again used by Satan. They will influence powerful military and political leaders to do battle against the returning Christ. John saw the whole thing in a mind-shattering vision recorded in the book of Revelation: "Then I saw coming from the mouth of the dragon [Satan], the mouth of the beast [end-time political/military leader], and the mouth of the false prophet [end-time supreme religious leader], three foul spirits like frogs. These spirits were devils [demons], with power to work miracles. They were sent out to muster all the kings of the world for the great day of battle of God the sovereign Lord " (Rev. 16:13- 15, The New English Bible).
   Those who are alive then will see one of the greatest manifestations of Satan's power in the human realm! The devil will actually be able, with the aid of other fallen spirits, to mobilize the kings of this earth and their armies against the returning Jesus Christ! This shows clearly just how much influence he has in the human realm as the god of this world!
   Leading up to these climactic end-time events will be signs and wonders that will dazzle the hearts and minds of the superstitious millions. Satan, like the pied piper of Hamlin, will mesmerize millions with his incredible power. Human leaders will be given miraculous power by the devil — for the advancement of his own diabolical purposes! One great religious leader, also called a "beast," will emerge. He will perform the most dazzling feats imaginable: "Then I saw another beast [a religious leader].... It worked great miracles, even making fire come down from heaven to earth before men's eyes. By the miracles it was allowed to perform in the presence of the beast [military leader] it deluded the inhabitants of the earth..." (Rev. 13:11-14, The New English Bible).
   People will be deceived by these metaphysical manifestations and "lying wonders." They will believe that the "great power of God" (Acts 8:10) is at work in these individuals.
   In the latter days of Satan's kingdom there will be a dramatic upsurge in apparent miracles. There will be a marked increase in spiritism of all types.
A New Dark Age. The earth's populace will descend into a new Dark Age of fear and superstition. Religious activity will reach an unprecedented high as ecclesiastical leaders perform dazzling miracles by the power of Satan. Fear religion will once again permeate the earth. The "mark of the beast" will be left on all who allow themselves to come under the influence of these powerful end-time leaders. Only those who submit will be permitted to buy or sell; those who refuse to become a part of this Satanic system — " Babylon the Great" — will be allowed to starve (Rev. 13:11-17). The true people of God will be persecuted and, in thousands of instances, martyred. The Spanish Inquisition, the bloody Crusades and the Reformation persecutions will be paled into insignificance as the blood of modern martyrs flows through the streets of the world. Thousands will die in bloody and ruthless purges (Rev. 13:7; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; etc.).
   Figuratively speaking, those who have been murdered in the name of religion will cry out to God: "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood... ?" (Rev. 6:10.) The reply is: "... rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been." Throughout the ages, those who have remained true to God, to Christ, and to the way of truth have been mercilessly martyred by those who have believed they were rendering God a service in so doing (John 16:2). And history has not yet seen the end of such terrible martyrdoms! God will have yet more elect to avenge. And vengeance will come!
End of Satan's Kingdom. The Bible speaks about "the days of vengeance" (Luke 21:22). This is a time of prophetic fulfillment "to fulfil all that is written." That time is nearer than you might have believed. Prophecy marches on! The end of.. Satan's kingdom and the manifestation of the Kingdom of God are near at hand.
   Jesus spoke of a time when "the ruler of this world [will] be cast out" (John 12:31). Yet today, Satan is still very much in power. God's saints know their true identity and affiliation, but those who have been deceived by Satan — the vast majority in this world — don't realize who they are serving.
   "We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one" (I John 5:19).
   The time is coming when the devil's power will be dissolved. The handwriting is now on the wall for Satan's kingdom — and, consequently, for the kingdoms of this world which he controls. Daniel wrote of the establishment of God's Kingdom on this earth. He said "... The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed .... It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan. 2:44).
   The Kingdom of God will come in power. It will usurp all earthly kingdoms and will establish a universal theocracy.
   Satan will have no part in that kingdom. He, and his followers — human and angelic alike — will be banished from all influence and activity during the period called "the millennium."
   At the beginning of Christ's rule on earth, Satan will be forcibly removed from office. "Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years were ended. After that he must be loosed for a little while" (Rev. 20:1-3).
   The handwriting is now on the wall for Satan's kingdom. He and his followers have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. His kingdom will be taken from him and given to Him who alone rules with justice and equity — Jesus Christ. Peace will break out everywhere!
   But before that peaceful Kingdom is established on this earth, the world must endure a time of trouble unprecedented in human experience.
   The next installment in this series of articles will discuss the warnings which are even now being given by the " secular prophets." Be sure to read it!

(To be continued)


   The following literature will afford the reader a better background for understanding this series of articles. The titles are: Did God Create a Devil? The Occult Explosion - What Does It Mean? Just What Do You Mean... Kingdom Of God? and WHY Must Men SUFFER?

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Good News MagazineAugust 1976Vol XXV, No. 8