Continuing through the Catechism of the Catholic Church as it relates to prophecy:
541 “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel.'” “To carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth.” Now the Father’s will is “to raise up men to share in his own divine life”. He does this by gathering men around his Son Jesus Christ. This gathering is the Church, “on earth the seed and beginning of that kingdoms”.
549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God’s sons and causes all forms of human bondage.
550 The coming of God’s kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s: “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Jesus’ exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus’ great victory over “the ruler of this world”. The kingdom of God will be definitively established through Christ’s cross: “God reigned from the wood.”
552 Simon Peter holds the first place in the college of the Twelve; Jesus entrusted a unique mission to him. Through a revelation from the Father, Peter had confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Our Lord then declared to him: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”Christ, the “living Stone”, thus assures his Church, built on Peter, of victory over the powers of death. Because of the faith he confessed Peter will remain the unshakeable rock of the Church. His mission will be to keep this faith from every lapse and to strengthen his brothers in it.
References to the Kingdom of God are apt in reference to prophecy. Much of John’s Apocalypse and other prophecy focuses on kingdoms. John describes the Kingdom of God in many ways, while also referencing other kingdoms in opposition of God’s kingdom. It is easy to imagine as we read such prophecies that this is a reference to some distant future only. It is not. The kingdom of heaven is already at hand. We must recognize that we are playing a part in the unfolding of history within the kingdom of God even today. It is an imperfect establishment. Remember that the kingdom is not intended to come upon us in sudden fashion. Jesus speaks numerous parables to get it through our heads that the kingdom is a slow-growing thing that starts small (as in the mustard seed) and grows to be immense. He also lets us know that some of those seeds flourish and some do not, and the kingdom will grow up among the “weeds” of evil. The Church is that kingdom, and we need to properly recognize that as we look at prophecy. Surely, there is a futuristic element as well, as far as the ultimate perfection of the kingdom unencumbered by surrounding evil and opposition.
It is sometimes difficult to believe that the gates of Hell do not prevail against this kingdom – the Church. There are scandals, bad clergy (including bishops and even some historical Popes), and numerous other inadequacies that lead to sacrilege, heresy, and outright blasphemy. This may be thought of as evidence that evil has been victorious over the Church. But I view it differently. The magisterial teachings of the church in matters of doctrine and faith have been unchanging (inasmuch as a doctrinal development does not undo or reverse a previously held position). Yes, doctrine develops as the Holy Spirit allows clarification on matters of faith, but the Church simply does not address some things as dogmatic and later change her mind. My view is that all these bad Popes and clergy that have tainted an otherwise Holy group of men and women within the hierarchy of the church only serve as direct evidence to the Holy Spirit’s presence in the protection against doctrinal error. This could be a long discussion, but it is worth mentioning. In the context of prophecy, this only means that the Church will continue to be our guide through all times. The best the devil can do is to attempt to physically dismantle the Church, which would simply leave the faithful wandering in the desert. While there are battles won by evil within the spiritual attack of the Church, they are limited in scope. The victory of evangelical truth and dogma will be that of Jesus Christ and His Church.
It is worth noting historically that there seem to be ebbs and flows throughout history of this conquering of the truth. The spiritual world does seem to mirror the physical world in many ways (or more likely, it’s the other way around). Immediately after Christ, a great evangelization occurred, but the opposing force was that of persecution. The more intense the persecution, the more it seems as if the kingdom is being defeated at the hands of the enemy. But, in fact, the seeds of Truth planted during this time are the heartiest of seeds, and the ground the most fertile. These times precede periods of hopelessness in which the gospel message will prevail to an even fuller extent than before. But Satan being who he is, he will find other ways of weakening the kingdom – at least temporarily. Heresies, trials and tribulations within and without the Church, and persecutions arise again even stronger than before and leave people thinking that God and religion are dead. But, as before, this will be met with an even stronger embracing of Truth. And so it goes.
So, when we see prophecies about societal decay and further chastisement, we know that this is yet another extreme in the cycle of faith. We can look with hope that, after the “down cycle” there will arise an even greater acceptance of Christ and the Gospel. Many prophecies point to the expectation that we are not, at the moment, approaching the end of the world, but we may very well be approaching a time of great chastisement. There could be very great suffering if this is true, but the “pruning” that takes place could be like none ever before. The kingdom of God may draw ever closer to the state of perfection that is its natural state. It may be a time of great faith and peace. But, as always, before the ultimate culmination of history – the great return of Christ and the final establishment of the kingdom in all its perfection and the final judgment – there will be one more great falling away from the faith, and it will be the final and most horrible of persecutions led directly by Satan. But the most important thing to see in this is that the bad times sow the seeds for the better times, and this cycle will continue for however long it is meant to continue until the final end.