Events of the twentieth century alerted Bible students to the tremendous potential for fulfilled prophecy, and many students of the Bible and eschatology recognize the events continuing to unfold in the world today as signs of the last days.
Today many secular as well as religious authorities recognize ...
"These are extraordinary times."
An Associated Press writer asks, "Is everything spinning out of control?" A Wall Street Journal headline read, "Millennium Fever: Prophets Proliferate, The End is Near." A New York Times book review began, "Some 50 million Americans share a belief that these are the last days." Even the Chicago Tribune ran a front-page story about the end times in a recent Sunday edition.
Even the most seasoned newsmen who have "seen it all" are in awe of the world developments in recent years. All of them realize that something unique in the history of the world is happening today. And what's most stunning about it all is the breath-taking rapidity of these recent developments.
Is civilization coming to an end?
"Armageddon is now near not because of this event or that event which may, in isolation, look like a prophetic fulfillment. Rather, it is because of the very nature of what causes Armageddon, coupled with the fact that our world today is rapidly assuming, on a global scale, the characteristics of that which underlies Armageddon." [William R. Goetz, Armageddon Next]
Malcolm Muggeridge suggested, "The basic condition for a civilization is that there should be law and order. Obviously this is coming to an end. The world is falling into chaos, even perhaps especially our western world... There are many other symptoms. The excessive interest in eroticism is characteristic of the end of a civilization because it really means a growing impotence, and fear of impotence. Then the excessive need for excitement, vicarious excitement, which of course the games provided for the Romans and which television provides for our population. Even the enormously complicated structure of taxation and administration is a symptom of the end of the civilization. Above all, there is this truly terrible thing which afflicts materialist societies - boredom, an excessive boredom which I note on every hand."
The signs of the times are visible all around us.
" wars and rumors of wars" - Matthew 24:6
Endless war seem to rage in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism is spreading to nearly every corner of the globe. Since 2000 alone, America has been mired in conflict in Sierra Leone, Yemen, East Timor, Afghanistan, Philippines, Cote d'Ivoire, Iraq, Liberia, Georgia, Haïti, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Somalia.
We have elevated war today to include even unspecified enemies. The war on terror has no particular enemy and not directed towards any specific country. It has been generalized to include just about anybody that disagrees with the ruling power. As such, it almost guarantees perpetual war.
...but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.
As Jesus points out, war is not necessarily a "sign" of the end of days, rather something that must happen as people continually slide into the chaos that results from their rebellion against God.
"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." - Matthew 24:7
Other conflicts are raging in Darfur, Saudi Arabia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Thailand, Chad, Gaza Strip and the West Bank in Israel, Niger and Mali, Kenya, and Sri Lanka.
"There will be famines and earthquakes in various places." - Matthew 24:7
Every year, earthquakes cause thousands of deaths, either directly or due to the resulting tsunamis, landslides, fires, and famines.
- 3,000 people died in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
- Around 110,000 were killed in the 1948 earthquake in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
- More than 5,700 deaths were reported following the strongest earthquake ever recorded in 1960 in Southern Chile.
- While only 15 people died in the 1964 Prince William Sound in Alaska quake itself, 110 more people were killed in the resulting tsunami.
- 66,000 were killed off the western coast of South America in the 1970 Peru earthquake.
- Between 250,000 and 655,000 died in the 1976 China earthquake that struck Tangshan, then a city of one million people.
- 63 people were killed in the 1989 Loma Prieta quake -- which struck the San Francisco area.
- 60 people were killed in the 1994 Northridge quake in Southern California.
- More than 5,000 were killed the 1995 Kobe, Japan earthquake.
- 230,000 (and perhaps as many as 290,000) people in 12 countries -- including about 168,000 in Indonesia alone were killed in the 2004 earthquake just off the west coast of the island of Sumatra, and the tsunami that followed.
- More than 80,000 people were killed in the 2005 Pakistan earthquake.
- More than 69,000 people died in the 2008 Sichuan China earthquake.
We're hearing of an increasing scarcity of food on a worldwide scale, due to increased consumption in growing countries such as China and India and rising fuel costs. These shortages have caused riots in some places and some predict the future outbreak of wars fought over increasing food scarcities.
The twentieth century was an unprecedented period of change and the twenty-first century is proving to be even more dramatic. At no time in history have more changes occurred in science and in the political structure of the world.
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More changes occur in science in a single year than formerly occurred in a century. The breathtaking pace of technological advancements insures that few of us can keep up with the rapid change and perhaps more important, the inability of society to keep pace with the ethics or morality behind many of these changes.
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The crumbling of the Eastern Bloc of Europe and the Communist Empire.
The opening of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of a divided Germany.
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The world's brightest beacon of liberty has been corrupted by immoral bankers and is now quickly becoming one of the greatest forces of evil in the world.
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With Israel restored as a nation in 1948, the panorama of end-time prophecy came into a focus in which Israel will be a prominent player. This event has been at the core of political instability in the Middle East, triggering the growing Islamic vs Zionist jihad.
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The introduction of the concept of a world government, made real by the United Nations paints a scenario that is in harmony with Bible prophecy concerning a future world government.
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The wholesale collapse of ethical and moral values throughout society and government. Children are killing their classmates, employees are killing fellow employees, and government leaders are promising change.
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The weakening influence of our churches and their leaders.
The world has entered a time of dramatic and ominous change. At the present moment of history, the planet Earth is in grave crises. This celestial ball is on a collision course with its Creator. We have reached the day which the prophet had in mind when he wrote,
"Woe unto them who call evil, good, and good, evil" [Isaiah 5:20]
Man has pushed the self-destruct button. Foundations of godliness have crumbled; things sacred have come unzipped. We have embraced the pagan teachings of Al Gore while rejecting the time proven commandments of God. We are trying to build a peaceful world, but there is no peace within people's hearts.
We must have an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Somehow God must reveal himself to this lost generation. Everything else has failed. Education has failed our youth. For the most part, parents have failed them. Government has failed to reach them. Dead religion has turned them off.
Billy Graham quoted John Walvoord in his book, "Storm Warning":
"The present world crisis is not a result of any one factor, but a concurrence of causes and effects which combine to set the world stage for a conflict which may quickly bring an end to hundreds of years of progress in western civilization and establish new centers of international power. Whatever the future holds, it is going to be dramatically different than the past. In this dark picture only the Scriptures chart a sure course and give us an intelligent explanation of worldwide confusion as it exists today."
Where does it all lead?
Even though we see the end times signs so clearly, it's still difficult to comprehend. What does it all mean? Where is it all leading? Why is there so little peace in the world when we have such unprecedented knowledge and unlimited potential?
Dr. Linus Pauling, winner of Nobel Prizes in 1954 and 1963, has said he believes the greatest catastrophe in the world is approaching. This looming catastrophe might well result in a world war which could destroy civilization and spell the end of the human race. Or, it might take the form of mass starvation among a world population that has been doubling every 35 years. Civilization might end because of the collapse of the systems on which it depends; or the end of civilization might result from weather changes induced by governments to improve the yield of crops.
The book of Revelation describes the end times. It speaks of a one-world government, a godless dictator, total regulation of all business, plagues, crime and rebellion, and devastating disasters. To many, it seems like a far-off time. But there are "signs of the times" in today's headlines - signs Jesus said would herald His return.
Some people argue that the characteristic of 'end time' people have been our character throughout the ages and that people haven't really changed. In its simplest form, that is true. It's not that we don't do the same things, what's relevant is that we do it with increasing intensity and we are teaching new ways of doing it. Certainly, these things have been happening since the beginning of time. However, the intensity of these things today is such that we dare not blind our eyes to their meaning.
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, "When evening comes, you say, `It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' and in the morning, `Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away. [Matthew 16:1-4]
Jesus said, "You can read the signs of the weather in the sky, but because of spiritual blindness you cannot read the signs of the times." Our Lord was saying the Jews of that day were blind to the signs of their time. He indicated that only those who have spiritual illumination and discernment from the Holy Spirit can hope to understand the trends and meanings of history. This explains why so many people haven't got a clue about what's going on and why most of our political leaders are taking us down the path to destruction.
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." [1Tim. 4:1]
We are now living in the "last days!"
The only way to understand the big picture is to look at the Bible and the various categories of signs that the Bible predicted would come together just before the return of Christ. The key to understanding current events is in some familiar old scriptural passages. Jesus Himself gave us the best insight shortly before his execution on the cross.
"Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ, ' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. [Matthew 24:4-14]
General 'signs' Jesus said would be visible prior to His return.
Our Lord told us not to be troubled, because these are only the beginning of "birth pains" [Matt. 24:8]. I believe that God is warning the world. The world has broken His covenant and has gone away from Him and these events are warnings designed to turn us to Him. And what we have seen thus far is just a prelude. The warnings are going to continue during the next few years, even building in intensity. After these warnings, the real judgment is going to come.
"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel--let the reader understand-- then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now--and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. "So if anyone tells you, 'There he is, out in the desert,' do not go out; or, 'Here he is, in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. - Matthew 24:15-28
A day of reckoning will come.
There will be an end.