By Pastor Doug Batchelor
An Amazing Fact: The Oregon Trail was forged by fur trappers and traders beginning in about 1811 and was at first only passable on foot or by horseback. By 1836, when the first migrant wagon train was organized in Independence, Missouri, a wagon trail had been cleared to Fort Hall, Idaho. The wagon trail was cleared farther and farther west, eventually reaching all the way to Willamette Valley in Oregon.
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It’s estimated that between 1834 and 1869, about 400,000 pioneers and migrants traveled to the bountiful lands of the western United States via the famous Oregon Trail. Most actually walked the 2,200-mile historic route, at times even pushing their overloaded wagons.
The journey was brutal, and many died along the way.
Crucial to a successful trip was sticking to the trail. Back then, there were no clearly placed highway signs marking the route! Natural landmarks were enormously vital. Taking a wrong turn, which many did, while crossing the vast “American Desert,” could easily lead to disaster and death.
The most famous landmark on the Oregon Trail was Chimney Rock. The 325-foot spire in Western Nebraska stood at the end of the prairielands and marked the transition into more rugged terrain. Pioneers were fascinated by this natural wonder and even wrote songs about it.
Similarly, the Bible also provides us with many prophetic landmarks to safely guide us through history to the heavenly Promised Land. A wrong turn on this trip can lead us to a distorted picture of God and leave us unprepared for what is soon coming on this world. Yet for those who carefully study these landmarks in prophecy, they can know with certainty that the Bible is a trustworthy map. Just as Chimney Rock marked a major transition on the Oregon Trail, prophecy tells us we are now at a turning point in history.
Let’s take a moment to fly over some highpoints on this prophetic path and consider some past landmarks of prophecy in light of those we can see today, and what is still to come.
Past Prophetic Landmarks
The Bible’s most comprehensive panorama of prophecy was revealed in a dream given to a king of ancient Babylon. God helped a Jewish prophet, named Daniel, interpret the leader’s divinely crafted dream. The vision covered the rise and fall of empires from Daniel’s day until Christ’s return. Using the symbol of a colossal statue of a man made of varying metals, the Lord revealed the rise and fall of five world empires. It was predicted that the last earthly kingdom would be divided until replaced by God’s own glorious kingdom, one that would stand forever.
History has unquestionably confirmed these five nations coming and going. The prophetic landmarks in Daniel 2 strongly establish the trustworthy nature of Bible prophecy in predicting the future. Babylon, symbolized by a head of gold, reigned from 612–539 BC. Medo-Persia, represented by a chest of silver, followed from 538–331 BC. Then arose Greece, the belly and thighs of bronze (331–168 BC), followed by the iron legs of Rome (168 BC–AD 476). The feet of iron and clay represented the last world empire, which reaches from ad 476 to our day.
Building on this prophecy, we discover deeper insights into the coming Messiah spoken of in Daniel 9. The predictions were very accurately calculated and pointed to Jesus’ baptism, crucifixion, and the launching of the gospel to the Gentiles. We find elsewhere in the Old Testament hundreds of other predictions regarding the birth of Jesus, His mission, and even details about His betrayal and death. All of these are extremely accurate prophetic landmarks we can set our watches to!
Like a set of keys opening a series of doors to the future, the prophecies in Daniel 9 help us to understand the longest prophecy in the entire Bible, found in Daniel 8. It stretched 2,300 years from the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile (457 BC) all the way to the time when Christ entered into the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary (AD 1844) and launched His final message to humanity before returning to earth.
We can look back on these sure landmarks in Scripture and trust God’s Word on present and future landmarks.
Present Prophetic Landmarks
Past prophecies assure us we are nearing the second coming of Christ. But Jesus gave extra prophetic clues to the times before His return. Signs would be revealed in the natural world—with major earthquakes and tsunamis, like the ones we’re seeing today (Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:25).
In the religious world, the Bible foretold a great awakening in prophecy before the coming of Christ. Beginning in the late 1700s, worldwide interest grew in understanding the Bible books of Daniel and Revelation. Enormous effort was focused on spreading the gospel to the world in fulfillment of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14.
We currently see prophetic landmarks all around us. Jesus predicted there would be a suppression of religious freedom and an increase in wickedness across the globe (Matthew 24:12), numerous wars and rumors of wars (vv. 6, 7), and a rise in false religious teachers (vv. 4, 5). The apostle Paul also pointed to moral decadence (2 Timothy 3:1–4). Do you believe these signs are being fulfilled in our day?
People would also have serious economic challenges (James 5:1–5) and be overwhelmed by the cares of life (Luke 21:34). Most convincing of all was Jesus’ promise that the gospel would penetrate into all the world and then the end would come (Matthew 24:14). Today, with satellite TV and the Internet, the message of the gospel is reaching into every corner of the globe through ministries like Amazing Facts.
Certainly we can look around us and see that these signs are being rapidly fulfilled. But what about future prophetic landmarks?
Future Prophetic Landmarks
The Bible predicts that before Jesus returns, we’ll see a false religious authority arise (Revelation 13:1). This beast-power once ruled the earth and was wounded. However, “his deadly wound was healed” (v. 3) and now “all the world marveled and followed the beast” (NKJV). It would join hands with another beast-power and seek to enforce religious laws in order to crush out God’s people (vv. 15–17).
Scripture foretold that a faithful remnant of Christ’s followers—those who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12)—would be protected during the final plagues and calamities to fall on the earth (Revelation 16). Then the false religious system would collapse and Christ would come.
When Jesus comes, the greatest prophetic landmark in history, every eye will see Him (Revelation 1:7). At that time, the righteous will be clothed with immortality ?(1 Corinthians 15:51–54). The unrighteous will cry for the rocks to fall upon them (Revelation 6:14–17). God’s people will be taken to heaven to reign for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). Then Satan will be loosed (v. 7) and lead the resurrected wicked in a futile attempt to attack and overthrow God and His people. After this, they will be judged and completely destroyed (v. 9) and, on the ashes of this purified planet, God will create a new earth (Revelation 21:1–3).
What It Means
Like emigrants on a march to a heavenly land, God’s people are traveling through this world to a much better place. To guide us on our journey, the Lord has provided prophetic landmarks to encourage us to continue in the right direction.
We don’t need to be afraid. Like Chimney Rock to the early American pioneers, we can recognize these fulfillments of truth and know with certainty that we are on the right trail and will soon reach the beautiful valleys of Canaan. Sure, rugged pathways lie ahead, but God is with you every step of the way!
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