Biblical prophecy is the revelation by God to humanity, through His chosen prophets, of future events described with exactness, hundreds or thousands of years beforehand. It embraces all times, including ours, from soon after it is announced until the remote future when there will be the creation of new heavens and new earth.
In a general way, humanity is treated in the Bible as three groups: the descendants of Israel, the Gentiles (all other people) and the people of God among which is included the church of Christ. Therefore, the prophecies it contains also address one or other of these groups. The Old Testament was destined in first place to the nation of Israel. God used His prophets from within this people to declare future events, and these mainly concern the descendants of Israel and the Gentile nations with which they had become involved.
There we find promises made to the people of Israel which, because they were made by God without imposing conditions, are prophecies, such as:
The "Abrahamic" covenant, considered the basic one, announcing that a great nation would descend from Abraham, and that in it all the families of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-4). As far as we are concerned, its fulfilment is seen the building of the church of Christ.
The "Palestinian" covenant, of the restoration, announcing that, after being spread among many nations, Israel will return to the land possessed by their forefathers (Deuteronomy 30:3-5). Many consider that it was fulfilled partially with the return of the Jews to form the sovereign nation of Israel of our days, but it really will only be fully confirmed on the second coming of Christ when all the remnant of Jews surviving the great tribulation will be congregated in the land promised to the patriarchs.
The "Davidic" covenant, of the kingdom, announcing that the dynasty of David, his kingdom and his throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16). It will be fulfilled in the millennium.
The "new" covenant, of blessing and redemption, announcing that Israel will be again the people of God, who will be their God, that Israel will know Him, and will be pardoned (Jeremiah 31:31-40). It is quite clear in Romans 11:25-29 that this will only happen after "the fulness of the Gentiles has come in", in other words, after the church of Christ, containing all the Gentiles to be redeemed, is completed. It will also only come to pass at the millennium.
As to the chronology of the events announced in the prophecies, we have a remarkable structure supplied in the book of Daniel for "the times of the Gentiles", starting with the Captivity of the Jews in Babylon and finishing with the return of the Messiah for the judgement of the nations, when the beginning of His kingdom of a thousand years will take place.
As the existence of the church was not disclosed to the prophets of the Old Testament, the period of the church on earth is excluded from the chronology of Daniel.
In the revelation of the seventy weeks (each one of seven years) in Daniel 9:24-27, the events foreseen have been fulfilled with absolute exactness until the end of the 69th week, when the church was established; the 70th week will start when the beast (also called Antichrist) will sign a treaty with many (Israelites).
This is the beginning of the Day of the Lord, or tribulation, or wrath, that will last through these last seven years, finishing upon the second coming of Christ (Daniel 9:27 and 14, Luke 21:20-28). We will call the interval between the 69th and the 70th week the interval and we will limit ourselves to this period in order to answer the question which is being answered.
The New Testament introduces something which was hidden to the prophets of the Old Testament, but was disclosed by Jesus Christ and His apostles (Ephesians 3:3-12): many among the Jews and the Gentiles would come together because of their faith in Christ, to form one only people called the Church of Christ. The formation of this people is taking place during the interval, which includes our days.
The New Testament contains many prophecies concerning the church. In the book of the Revelation we have the prophecy of the seven churches: few doubt that we are living already in the days of the last one, Laodicea.
As to the people of Israel, and the Gentiles, there are prophecies for the times preceding the Tribulation, which will therefore also take place during the interval, during which the people of Israel have been submitted to the judgement of the LORD, because of their unbelief, murmuring and rebellion, and were punished, losing their land and being spread over the world:
God promised that they would be gathered out of the countries wherein they were scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out (Ezekiel 20:33,34). After what He will enter in judgement with them, and the rebels will be purged so that they do not enter in the land of Israel. The fury of God is evident in the nazi Holocaust, after which the Jews have been taken out from amongst the peoples to inhabit their land again. Israel conquered Jerusalem during the War of the Six Days, and the next event to prepare for the prophecy in Daniel 9:27 will be the construction of their temple. But let us be reminded that most of the people of Israel are still spread throughout the world. The peace treaty will be, therefore, signed "with many": not all, as accurately prophesied in the book of Daniel. The second part of Ezekiel's prophecy where God will enter into judgement with Israelites, and the rebels will be purged so that they do not enter in the land of Israel, will take place during Great Tribulation (see also Ezekiel 22:17-22, Zephaniah 2:1-3), and after this they will enter for the second time in the land of Israel, now a regenerated nation, purged of the rebels, to enjoy the blessings of the millennium (Isaiah 11:11-12).
There will be an attempt to invade Israel: Ezekiel 38:1 to 39:16. This passage announces who, where, why, which, how and when this invasion will happen. It is still to come, as well as the following events.
There will be peace among the nations: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3. The expression is used "the day of the Lord", clarifying that this period of peace and security will come immediately before the rapture of the church, which will be succeeded by the sudden destruction of the years of the tribulation.
World-wide government will be distributed between ten kingdoms: Daniel 7:24. It is generally accepted that the Roman system of government and religion, divided in two legs - the Eastern and Western "Christian" civilisation - will eventually be composed of ten "kingdoms", or units of government, before the tribulation.
The man of the iniquity will be disclosed, amongst the general apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:1-5). After the forming of the ten kingdoms, this personage, better known as the "Antichrist", will start his climb to the supreme power (Daniel 7:24), and his identity will be disclosed before the tribulation. The treaty for seven years between the "Antichrist" and the State of Israel will mark the end of the interval (Daniel 9:27), and the beginning of tribulation lasting seven years.
The seven churches and these events follow in sequence within the interval. There are other events also foreseen to take place before the end of the interval which we cannot place in a sequence. We mention the following ones, all still in the future:
Darkness: it is foreseen on five occasions, one of which, in accordance with Joel 2:31, will be before the coming of the "great and terrible day of the LORD", another description of the seven years of tribulation. It will be like the darkness in Egypt (Exodus 10:21-23) and the one during the crucifixion (Matthew 27:45).
The return of Elijah: it will occur before the great and terrible day of the LORD, to restore the unit of the family of Israel, which will be disintegrating.
The rapture of the church of Christ, to whom it has been promised that it will not be subject to the wrath of God, and God alone knows the day and the hour when this is going to happen (Matthew 24:36-44, Acts 1:7). This event is not to be confused with the second return of Christ to the world in order to bring judgement upon it and to establish His kingdom. The rapture is the hope of the church, when the Lord, the "Shining Star of the Morning" (Revelation 22:16), will come to meet it in the air, so that we may be forever with Him (John 14:1-3, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, 1 John 3:2), while the second return is the hope of Israel, when He will appear as the "Sun of Justice", with salvation in His wings (Malachi 4:2). All that we know regarding when the rapture will occur, is that it will be before the tribulation (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, 5:9, Revelation 3:10) and that it is imminent, as it always has been (John 21:20-23, Romans 13:11-12, James 5:7-9, Revelation 22:20).
The true hope of the believer is not on earth, but in heaven. We await the fulfilment of the designs of God on earth, but our priority is not freedom on earth, to enjoy earthly blessings, like the nation of Israel, but freedom from earth, to enjoy the unspeakable blessings in the presence of our Saviour in heaven. The believer does not await the conversion of the world to Christ, nor its reformation. His immediate hope is not the kingdom of Christ, but the coming of Christ for him.