Prophecy – Signs
There are many today who decry the study of Prophecy
. I have en- countered this reaction to the teaching of prophecy to such an extent that I want, the Lord
helping me, to set forth some of the Scriptural reasons for studying and preaching prophecy.1. It would seem to me that the first reason would be apparent to every student and minister of the Word. In Matthew 4:4 our Lord, in response to the first temptation, tells Satan that man is to live by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. That includes all of the prophets and prophecies of the Old Testament, as well as those of the New Testament, including the book of Revelation.
It is interesting to hear men talk and preach on the subject of the church when our Lord, as far as the record goes, just mentioned the church twice during His earthly ministry-in Matthew 16 and Matthew 18. He didn’t mention it in Mark, Luke or John, but all through these four books He spoke repeatedly of His second coming; and these same preachers refuse to accept, believe or teach about His muchly publicized return. Others preach continually on baptism, co-operation, tithing- which are well and good in their place but seldom mentioned or referred to by the Lord, whereas practically everything that is said throughout the whole of the New Testament points to and emphasizes the return of the Lord Jesus Christ
and the establishment of His kingdom.
2. The second reason for the study of prophecy is manifest in Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonians. In I Thess. 1:7 we learn that the church at Thessalonica was the model church. In verses 9 and 10 this model church did three things: (a) they turned to God from idols, (b) they served the living and true God, and (c) they waited for His Son from heaven (second coming). In II Thess. 2 we find that during the three weeks’ ministry Paul had with this church he spoke of the day of the Lord, he preached on the Antichrist, and he preached on the great apostasy which would precede the second coming. In I Thess. 4:13-18 he preached on the rapture-the resurrection of the dead and the translation of the living. In the fifth chapter he preached on the signs of the times. Throughout the entire book he preached on rewards to be given out at our Lord’s return.
3. A third reason for the study of prophecy is that one may be able to discern false spirits (I John 4:1-3). If anyone does not believe and confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, he is of the spirit of Antichrist (how can one know about Antichrist apart from prophecy?). II John 7: if one doesn’t believe that Jesus Christ is coming back in the flesh that one, too, is of the Antichrist. I wonder how many ministers there are standing in the pulpits today, trying to preach the Word, who in reality are the spirit of Antichrist because they don’t believe Jesus Christ is coming back in the flesh.
4. Another reason for studying prophecy: II Peter 1:19-whereas we learn that prophecy is THE LAMP which the Lord has given us as a guide in this time of darkness in which we live. Anyone attempting to go through his Christian life without a knowledge of prophecy may be compared to an individual tearing down the highway at night in an automobile at sixty miles an hour without any lights.
5. Another reason for the study of prophecy is to be found in I John 3:1-3, in which we are told that hope in things surrounding the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is a purifying agent for any and all who are looking for His coming, and this cannot be done without a knowledge of prophecy.
6. A further reason for studying prophecy is that according to Hebrews 5:10 through 6:12, prophecy is revealed as the meat of the Word, and the Lord desires that babes in Christ get off the milk of the Gospel after they are saved and get on into the meat of prophecy that they might grow into manhood.
7. Another reason – and to me this might well be considered the primary reason – is that only through the study of prophecy can we know the approximate period of our Lord’s return and in truth watch for His appearing. Again and again our Lord admonished His followers to watch and be ready at the time of His return. In this way we would not lose our reward; in this way we would not be shut out of a place of rulership in His kingdom; in this way we would bring great honor and glory to Him; and in this way we would enter into the full realization of the things that the Lord has prepared for those who love Him and long for His return.
When one says he is not interested in the Lord’s return he is proclaiming that he has little interest in the Lord. When one says he doesn’t believe in the Lord’s return he is denying the Word of God. The Apostle Paul, a great example for a minister to follow, preached salvation by grace and rewards on the basis of works, such works to be carried on diligently in the light of our Lord’s soon return. One cannot go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature and leave out half of the good news. “Study tb shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Tim. 3:16, 17).
The above quoted Scriptures are entirely meaningless to any teacher or minister of the Word who does not study, teach and preach prophecy; and such a one standing in the presence of the Lord at the judgment seat of Christ cannot say with the Apostle Paul “For I have not shunned to declare
unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). I am reminded of what a great Methodist evangelist said on one occasion when, in referring to the dearth of prophetic teaching and preaching, he said, “Anyone who doesn’t teach and preach the second coming of Christ is either a coward or an ignoramus.”
WHAT TIME IS IT?
For the past few years one of the major questions posed by Bible students, conference speakers, statesmen, and historians has been the questin which is the subject of this article; namely, “What Time Is It?” So far as we have been able to ascertain, the answer has been the same by all: “It is later than you think.”
When we turn to the Scripture we are first of all impressed with the truth that man cannot set a date. In fact he has been warned by God that such is outside of man’s province. Many people err greatly also in thinking that God does not know, but it is well to keep in mind that all of the times of Scripture are God’s appointed times. There is no such thing as an unknown or unanticipated event as far as God is concerned. “Known unto God from the beginning are all of His works” (Acts 15:18). Jewish writers and early Christian writers presented a testimony that the history of man would continue for six thousand years and then we would have the day of rest for the people of God spoken of in Heb. 4:9, which would be the seventh day or the seventh one thousand-year period of the history of the world – namely, the millennial reign of Christ. We want to quote from a number of Christian writers of the first three centuries.
1. Barnabas, the companion of Paul in his travels. In the 13th chapter of the epistle ascribed to him, we find the following passage: – “God made in six days the works of His hands and He finished them the seventh day; and He rested the seventh day and hallowed it. The meaning of it is this: that in six thousand years the Lord will bring all things to an end, for with Him one day is as a thousand years, as Himself testifieth; therefore in six days – that is in six thousand years shall all things be accomplished. And what is this He saith – He rested the seventh day? He meaneth this, that when His Son shall come and abolish the season of the wicked one, and shall judge the ungodly, and change sun, moon, and stars, then He shall gloriously rest on that seventh day.”
Now, to what does this witness testify? (a) That at the end of six thousand years from the creation of the world, the glorious or Millennial rest will begin. (b) That to inaugurate this period, Christ will come. (c) That the wicked will be in the ascendant, possessing the dominion till Christ does come. (d) That at His coming He will judge the ungodly, dethrone evil, and give the dominion to the saints. (e) That the seven thousandth year of the world will be the beginning of the Millennium of rest.
2. Papias, our second witness, was a disciple of John, and the companion of Polycarp. His workers have perished, but an extract from them, given by Eusebius, contains the following: “There will be a certain thousand years after the resurrection of the dead when Christ will reign corporally (personally) upon the earth”; and he says, “that what he relates are the very words of the elders Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, Aristio, and John the Presbyter, as related by them to those of whom he constantly made the enquiry”; and he pledges himself to the “truth and fidelity of what he reports.”
3 Justin Martyr, born ten years before the death of the apostle John, says, in his dialogue with Tyrpho, “I, and all that are orthodox Christians, are acquainted with the resurrection of the body, and the thousand years in Jerusalem – rebuilt, adorned, and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel, Isaiah, and others do declare. Moreover, John, one of the apostles of Christ, did prophesy that the faithful believers in Christ shall live a thousand years in Jerusalem, and after that, the general and everlasting resurrection and last judgment of all together.”
4. Irenaeus was the disciple of Polycarp, the pupil of John. He wrote, among other things, five books upon the heresies of his time. Moshiem says that his writings are “the most precious monuments of ancient erudition.” He says: “In whatever number of days the world was created, in the same number of thousands of years it will come to its consummation. God on the sixth day finished His work and rested on the seventh. This is a history of the past – and a prophecy of the future – for the day of the Lord is as a thousand years. Irenaeus sealed his testimony with his blood, being beheaded under Severus, A.D. 202.
5. Tertillian, the contemporary of Irenaeus, says, in his third book against Marcion: “We also confess that a Kingdom is promised to us on earth before that in heaven after the resurrection. It will be for a thousand years in a city of divine workmanship,”
6. Cyprian says, “In the divine arrangement of the world, seven days were first employed, and in them seven thousand years are included. Evil things and adverse will increase until the end foretold shall come.” 7. Clement of Alaandra, who wrote between A.D. 193 and 218, says that both Greeks and Hebrews accounted the seventh day sacred because it pointed to the renovation of all things.
8.. Nepos, a learned Egyptian bishop (A.D. 262), held similar views.
9. Lactantius, A.D. 310, the “Christian Cicero,” and reckoned one of the most learned of the fathers, says: “He (God) shall restore the just that have been from the beginning unto life, and He shall converse among men a thousand years, and rule them with a most righteous government.”
10. Gibbon, the infidel historian, speaking of this doctrine of the Millennium says: “The ancient and popular doctrine of the Millennium was intimately connected with the second coming of Christ. As the works of the creation had been finished in six days, their duration in their present state, according to tradition, which was attributed to the prophet Elijah, was fixed to six thousand years. By the same analogy it was inferred that this long period of labor and contention would be succeeded by a joyful sabbath of a thousand years, and that Christ, with the triumphant band of His saints and the elect who had escaped death or who had been miraculously revived, would reign upon the earth.”
11. The celebrated Chillingworth says, “This doctrine was by the Church of the next age after the Apostles held to be true, and by none of that age opposed or condemned.” And now let the reader note well, when and under what circumstances this Apostolic and primitive mode of receiving and interpreting Scripture began. During these centuries of persecution, this doctrine of the pre-millennial Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ had been the church’s fondest hope. This had lit up the darkness of the dungeon, fired the zeal of the martyrs, and blunted the edge of the persecutor’s sword. The heathen persecutors recognized this at last, and said, “It is no use persecuting these men and putting them to death, for they say they shall rise again from the dead and live and reign with him they call Christ, a thousand years upon the earth.”
12. Luther. He believed that “The great purposes of God’s mercy would reach their consummation at the end of six thousand years from the creation,” and that the day of judgment was not much more than three hundred years removed from his time.”
13. Malanethon affirmed that the “Mohametan Empire and the Papacy would be destroyed about the same time, not long before the first resurrection; that the world would endure six thousands in its present state, and then enter upon a Sabbatic Millennium of rest.”
14. Latimer says, “The world was ordained to last six thousand years.”
15. The Rabbi Ketina, as cited in Gemara, or gloss of their Talmud, says, “The world endures six thousand years, and one thousand it shall be laid waste (that is the enemies of God shall be destroyed), whereof it is said, “the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.”
16. The Jewish Cabbalists taught the same. The first letter of the Hebrew Alphabet (Aleph) occurs six times in the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis; and as a numeral in Jewish arithmetic it stands for 1,000, which being six times repeated in the same verse, they regard as prophetic, or typical of the six thousand years of secular history as well as the six days of creation.
From these quotations one cannot help but be impressed with the fact that those living nearest the Lord and His Apostles believed beyond any shadow of a doubt that the world was divided into the two periods of six days of work and a day of rest. And because the Lord had said that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,” the true significance of the days meant, God would work with the world six thousand years and then enter the day of rest.
Without attempting to set any dates whatsoever, one cannot but be interested in the fact that the four leading chronologers, who vary but about one hundred years in their findings, all believe that the world is approaching some time in the near future its six thousandth year. Among these chronologers is the late Sir Martin Anstey of England who believed that the six thousandth year of Scripture coincides with 1958 of the year of our Lord. We appreciate the fact that this is in the realm of speculation, but it is of interest to note that regardless of whose chronology we adopt, one must admit that the sands in the hour glass of time are fast running out. The Lord Jesus Christ is coming back someday (and none of us knows what day); therefore it becomes us to be ready everyday.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Matthew 16:1-3. “Ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
When one speaks of the Lord’s return and its eminence the questions arise, “How do you know that His return is near?” and” Are there any signs of His return, and can they be safely interpreted?”
The importance of our Lord’s return is at once manifested in that Satan has made it the focal point of his attacks upon the eternal plan and purpose of God. A Christian whose hope is in the coming of the Lord purifies himself, and Satan is not interested in Christians’ being pure. Therefore, he tries to bring the doctrine of the second coming of Christ into disrepute and make spectacles of those who preach His soon return.
Now to address ourselves to the signs of the times. It is a principle of the moral government of God in His dealings with mankind not to permit a judgment to come upon man, nor a dispensation to come to a close, nor any great event to come to pass without ample warning and many signs to make one realize that the event in question is at hand. Let us consider some of God’s signs and warnings from the beginning:
I. The destruction of all flesh on the face of the earth by the flood was preceded by three great signs easily understood by any who so desired. The first of these signs was the building of the ark according to God’s revelation to Noah, wherein He gave specifications to the dimensions and the activity of the builders. All of these things should have startled the public into the realization that something was in the offing.
The second of these three signs was Noah’s preaching righteousness for a hundred and twenty years, in which he constantly reminded the people and exhorted them concerning the judgment of God which was to come upon the world in the form of a flood. But it seemed to have had no effect whatever. The third sign of this impending destruction by the flood was the gathering of the animals into the ark. They manifestly entered without any fear or timidity in specified numbers according to the revealed will of God. There may have been a little excitement among the people but there was nothing that caused them to think upon themselves and their relationship to God. But there was not a one who perished in the flood but who would have had to acknowledge that he had ample warning.
Let us not forget that Jesus said, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man.” There are many Christians today as oblivious to the second coming of Christ as these people were to the approaching of the flood.
II. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah followed God’s warning. Before the Lord rained fire and brimstone upon these two cities and several other cities of the plain, he sent His angels into the city of Sodom to warn the inhabitants of the impending judgment, with the call unto them to flee from the city before the destruction came. The warnings of these two angels, which were also taken up by Lot, meant nothing to the inhabitants of the city, and even Lot’s married daughters and their husbands looked upon Lot as if he were out of his mind. There was not a person who perished in the destruction of these two cities but who had ample warning with plenty of time to flee.
III. Before the great famine in Egypt which also spread to the whole world, the Lord through Joseph gave plenty of warning, first of all by giving them seven years of plenty, exhorting them to save during the years of plenty for the years of famine that would follow. Because of this warning of God, Joseph was able to prevail upon Pharaoh to store up for the years of famine, thereby averting many heartaches that would have been brought on by starvation.
IV. Before the Lord God destroyed Pharaoh and all his hosts in the Red Sea He had given them ample warning through Moses and the ten plagues. Pharaoh knew of the judgements of God and Pharaoh had ample time to make preparations, but he, like so many today, cared not for the things of the Lord and destruction was his portion.
V. Before the handwriting appeared on the wall, announcing Belshazzar’s doom and the fall of Babylon, God had demonstrated through his father Nebuchadnezzar that Jehovah was the Lord and that beside Him there was none other. Belshazzar had seen his father grazing in the fields with the cattle for seven years. Belshazzar saw his father restored to sanity and back to the headship of the Babylonian Empire, but none of these things moved Belshazzar, and he lived as if there were no God nor any day of accounting unto the Lord.
A most pertinent statement pertaining to the truth that God makes His will known ahead of time is Amos 3:7: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
When certain of the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus, and asked for a sign from heaven, He rebuked them severely, saying, “0 ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
I think it is of great significance that those with twisted or perverted views of the second coming of Christ are given specific appellations by the Lord. Here He calls them HYPOCRITES. In Luke 24:25 He calls those who do not believe everything spoken about the Lord FOOLS. In Matt. 24:48 anyone who would put anything between us and the coming of the Lord is called an EVIL SERVANT. And in II Pet. 3:3 those who make light of and ridicule the second coming of Christ are called SCOFFERS. What a catalog of names! Hypocrites. . . fools. . . evil servants. . . . scoffers. This is what our Lord calls those who make light of the second coming of Christ. When the Lord was approached by the scribes and Pharisees who desired of Him a sign from heaven, He rebuked them for not being able to discern the signs of the times; that is , they had been given ample signs of His first advent so that everyone of them should have known that it was time for Messiah to be at hand.
The first sign to which I call your attention is what we call the chronological sign. In Daniel, chapter 9, as Daniel was studying the book of Jeremiah he realized that the 70 years of captivity of the children of Israel were almost completed and his thought was that with the expiration of the 70 years the Lord would come. However, in vv. 24-27 of that ninth chapter the Lord made it very plain that He would not appear on the earth at the expiration of the 70 years but at the end of 483 years. Daniel was told that God would yet deal with Israel 490 years, this period of time being divided into three periods. At the end of 49 years the temple would be rebuilt. At the end of 483 years the Messiah would appear and be cut off. There was not a Jew alive in those days but who could figure from the decree that was issued by Cyrus (Isa. 44:28) that 483 years had passed and that it was time for the Messiah to appear and to be crucified. (There still remain 7 years in which God will yet deal with Israel as a nation according to the laws of the Old Testament.
The second sign is the celestial. In Num. 24:17 Balaam spoke of a Star arising out of Jacob and a sceptre out of Israel. The old rabbis from time immemorial have associated the star which appeared in the east with the Star of Jacob prophesied by Balaam. There were many who recognized the significance of the prophecy of the star in the east, but by far and large the majority of the people of Israel ignored it.
The third sign: The wise men out of the east. Their presence on the streets of Jerusalem was of such import that Herod ascertained from them the time of the appearing of the star and then, having learned where the Christ should be born, sent his soldiers to Bethlehem and had all the male children two years and under slain, hoping to destroy the King of the Jews who would ascend to the throne of David. This sign seemed to have had little impact upon the scribes and Pharisees.
The fourth sign: The prophecy of Micah concerning Bethlehem. The star guiding the wise men from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and the slaying of the male children of Bethlehem projected Bethlehem into such prominence that the very city itself became a sign that some great event had transpired. The fifth sign: The announcement of the shepherds from the field, accompained by the singing of the angels in the heavens. This phenomenon should have produced wonder and amazement sufficient for the scribes and Pharisees to ask why and find their answer in the first advent of the Messiah.
The sixth sign: The departure of the scepter of Judah. As Jacob lay upon his deathbed he gathered his sons around him to tell them of the things which would befall them in the last days. He said to Judah (Gen. 49:10), “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, not a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” Simply expressed this means that when the scepter had departed from Judah the Messiah would be on the earth. The scepter is the visible symbol of the power of government. Gen. 9:6 tells us that the basis and authority of civil government reside in the power to execute capital punishment upon the murderer. So what Jacob said in effect was that when Judah could no longer execute a sentence of capital punishment, Shiloh (that is, the Lord Jesus Christ) would have come.
In John 18:28-31, wherein we read of Jesus’ being convicted and sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin, they take Him to Pilate to be executed. Pilate had no inclination whatever to do so and tells them, “You take Him, and Judge Him accordingly to your law,” to which the Jews reply, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” THE SCEPTER HAD DEPARTED FROM JUDAH. The Jews could not execute a man guilty of a capital offense. There was not a Jew present but who should have known instantly that the prophecy of Jacob had been fulfilled. The scepter had departed from Judah because Shiloh had come.
No wonder our Lord called them hypocrites, with all of these signs in evidence and still they would not accept the fact that the Messiah had come and that He, Jesus of Nazareth, was their Messiah. The Jews did not see – the Jews did not understand – they were blinded. And all of this because they had turned from the Book that recorded these signs and read only the traditions of men. They cared not for the Word of God, and they missed the greatest opportunity of their life. For two thousand years the nation of Israel has paid and paid in agony, tragedy and suffering untold. All of this because they did not believe in the signs of the times.
WHEN SHALL THESE THINGS BE?
In Matt. 24:3 the disciples asked the Lord three questions: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”
In our Lord’s lament over Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39), He solemnly announced, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” In the use of the word house in Scripture, sometimes it refers to the house of Israel and sometimes to the temple. Here, I think, it refers to both with the emphasis on the temple. As was our Lord’s custom during His last week on earth, He ministered in the temple by day, and retired to the olive garden at night. It was on one of these occasions that the disciples, pressed down with the burden and worry of the desolation of Jerusalem which was prophesied, showed Him the building of the temple, and as they looked at it and meditated upon its massiveness and grandeur, they remembered that Herod was 46 years in building it. They were also cognizant of the fact that many of the stones in the building were 12x20x4O feet in measurement. The desolation of such a structure was inconceivable to their minds; so our Lord said, “See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.” This was our Lord’s own exposition of Matt. 23:38- a destruction of such a nature that not one stone would be left on top of another. These massive parts of the building themselves were to be scattered all over the temple area. Later on in the day as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately asking three questions: (1) “When shall these things be?” That is, when will the temple be destroyed to such an extent that one stone will not be left upon another? (2) “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” (3) “What shall be the sign of the end of the world?”
God in His providence, in giving His revelation to man, has not given us an organized, well-defined system of theology, but has so made known His truth that man must dig if he is to comprehend it all. This first question is not answered at all in Matthew; neither is it touched upon in Mark. It is not until we come to Luke 21:20 that we find the answer. Now let us put three things together that we may correctly understand.
Jesus said, “Your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:38). The disciples asked, “When shall these things be” (Matt. 24:3)7 Jesus answered, “And when Ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20). Without any other designation in this verse of Scripture, it follows of necessity that it is the first time afterthe speaking of this prophecy that Jerusalem shall be surrounded with armies, that constitutes the sign or the desolation of Jerusalem.
Not only did our Lord give them the sign in this passage in Luke, but in verse 21 He says that when Jerusalem is compassed with armies, “then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereunto.” This prophecy was uttered in about 30 A.D. The year 40 A.D. went and no armies had surrounded Jerusalem; likewise, 50 A.D. Then 60 A.D. arrived and no armies; but in October of 66 A.D., Cestius Gallus and his Roman legions moved against the city of Jerusalem, completely surrounding it. Jerusalem was then surrounded by armies for the first time since our Lord had uttered His prophecy giving the sign of its approaching desolation.
One cannot but wonder what the Christians were thinking. Here was the sign the Lord had given. He also had told them that when this sign appeared they were to flee from the city to places of safety. It presented quite a dilemma – commanded to flee, and flight an impossibility. But Jesus Christ, being God and knowing all His works from the beginning, had prophesied right. Just about a month later, in November 66 A.D., for no known reason at all, Cestius Gallus and his Roman armies withdrew and left the territory completely.
Jerusalem was on the verge of absolute disaster. Food and water supplies were exhausted. They could not have withstood the siege another week. Military tacticians themselves have been baffled through the years trying to explain the movement of Cestius Gallus in withdrawing from Jerusalem. We who believe the Bible understand it readily. The sign of the imminent desolation of Jerusalem was the emcompassing of the city by armies. That sign had been given. The accompanying command was for the Christians to leave Jerusalem when they saw this take place. Because they could not leave while the armies were there, our Lord removed the armies so that the Christians could flee the city and not be in the carnage of its desolation. It was in 70 A.D. that Titus returned with the Roman armies and threw up a siege which resulted in the sacking and desolation of the city. More than one million perished in the fall of Jerusalem. Josephus, in his Antiquity of the Jews, tells us that the wave of Jewish blood flowing down through the gutters of the city reached such proportions that whole houses on fire in the southern part were extinguished by this wave of human blood. Josephus also tells us in the same book that so far as could be ascertained, not a Christian perished in the fall of Jerusalem who believed the sign our Lord gave them, and fled at the opportunity provided.
How did the temple fare? History records the fact that when the siege was over there was not one stone of the temple left on top of another. Tradition has it that gold leaf was between the stones to enhance the beauty of the temple. The need of the Roman Empire for gold was such that each stone was removed, taken off by itself and the gold scraped from the stone and added to the coffers of the Roman Empire. Another tradition is that the dome of the temple was made of solid gold, and the holocaust melting the gold caused it to run down between the stones with the result that they had to be separated and the gold scraped off to save it. Thus was the prophecy of our Lord concerning the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple fulfilled.
WHAT SHALL BE THE SIGN OF THY COMING?
In our last article we answered the first of the three questions the disciples asked the Lord -“Tell us when shall these things be?” In this current article we will deal with the second question, “What shall be THE sign of thy coming?”
One cannot but be amazed at some fundamental scholars who go to great lengths to try to prove that there are no signs of the coming of our Lord, when He, Himself, took special pains to show that there was A sign of His coming as well as innumerable signs of His imminent return. In Matthew 24:4, Jesus cautioned the disciples against the deception of man. He also told then that many would come in His name saying that they were Christ. How true it is that around the world today there are many who claim to have the power and attributes which belong to Him. The Lord also called attention to the fact that there would be wars and rumors of wars until His return; but in verses 7 and 8 He gives us THE sign of His coming: “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
What we have mentioned in verse 7 is a world-wide conflict followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. The language of Scripture will not permit the acceptance of any other world war as a sign except the first one to take place after the utterance of the prophecy. It would have been necessary for the Lord to have used an ordinal number to specify the worldwide war He had in mind; but He did not, and it can be no other than World War I. In verse 8, Jesus says that this world war, followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, was the beginning of sorrows. The word sorrows is the same that is used in I Thess. 5:3, which is there translated travail. That is, all these are the beginning of travail. Let me express it still in another way: This is the first birth pang. This is the exact language the Lord used. Just as the first siege of Jerusalem, after the prophecy, was the sign of the approaching desolation, so the first world war after this prophecy was the sign of our Lord’s imminent return. Now watch closely two other passages of Scripture: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake” (verse 9). The word then relates this experience to the sign. Sometime after the first world war there is going to be a persecution of the Jews that shall be world-wide in that they shall be hated by all nations. The phrase “all nations” is never used except to distinguish all the Gentiles from the children of Israel; hence, this verse does not have to do with just the persecution of Christians but also the persecution of the Jews by all the Gentile nations.
Just before the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, the persecution of the Jews had reached such proportions that even the United States of America would not permit two boat loads of Jewish refugees to enter its borders. Had not Pearl.’: Harbor happened, the evidence is to the fact that persecution of the Jews : would have broken out all over this country. The, result of this world-wide persecution of the Jews was the decimation of over one-third of the Jewish population of the world. All of that was “for my name’s sake.” How could these unsaved Jews be persecuted for Christ’s sake? The Jew is hated for three particular reasons: First, because he gave us our Bible as far as human means is concerned; second, he gave us the Messiah after the flesh; and.” third, he is to be Jehovah’s witness to the ends of the earth. That is the;’ reason Satan hates the Jew, and that is the reason the world hates the Jew. ‘ But it seems paradoxical that the three reasons for which he is hated guarantee his perpetuity on the earth.
In that same passage we have these verses: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know j that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” In this parable of the fig tree Jesus says that soon after Israel becomes a nation again you know that He is near, even at the door; for in this parable the fig tree symbolizes Israel as a nation. As a national power Israel was set aside, the fig tree was cut down.
But Jesus said that Israel is to be restored as a nation and that this event itself is a sign of His imminency. In verse 34, Jesus gives the added chronological aspect of the sign of His coming in the words of this generation: that is, the generation mentioned in verse 33, meaning, the generation which sees these things shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled.
To sum it up, Jesus said that the generation which sees a world-wide war followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes, followed by world-wide persecution of the Jews in which untold numbers would be killed, and followed soon thereafter by Israel becoming a nation again – THAT GENERATION would see His return to earth.
It is because of these Scriptures that the writer believes that our Lord may come in this generation. We have seen the war of 1914-18; we have seen the slaying of six million Jews in World War II, and on May 14, 1948, we saw the fig tree bud. Surely the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, for Jesus said this is THE sign of His coming.
WHAT SHALL BE THE SIGN OF THE END OF THE WORLD?
This article brings us to the third and last question the disciples asked the Lord as recorded in Matthew 24:3. The first question was, “When shall these things be?” meaning the destruction of Jerusalem. The second question was, “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” Now for the third and last they asked, “What shall be the sign of the end of the world?”
We call your attention first of all to the fact that the correct translation is not “the end of the world” but “the end of the age.” The end of the world will not take place until some thousand years after the end of this age. There are several signs spoken of portending the end of the age which we will discuss a little later; but right now we present THE SIGN of its swift consummation: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:15, 21, 30).
The abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel refers to the image made and erected by King Nebuchadnezzar as described in Daniel 3. There is further reference to this abomination of desolation spoken of in Rev. 13:15. This will be the placing of the image of the Anti-Christ in the Holy of Holies, to which life shall be given and worship of which shall be exacted from the people under penalty of death for refusal. This ushers in the great tribulation which shall be followed immediately by the darkening of the sun, the failure of the moon to give light, the falling of the stars from heaven, and the appearance of the sign of the Son of man in heaven. There is no description of the sign, but the Scripture is clear to the extent that there will be no doubt as to the sign and its significance. That is what our Lord gave as the answer to the question, “What shall be the sign of the end of this age?” Now I want to give you a number of events which in themselves constitute signs of the end of this age.
1. The rapture of the saints (I Thess. 4:13-5:6). Whereas the catching away of all the saints by the resurrection of the dead and the translation of the living is a secret event known and experienced only by the saved, yet the absence from the earth of a vast number of individuals whose bodies will not be found on the earth will be a sign to the ones remaining that movements have been set in motion which will swiftly culminate in the end of the age.
2. The appearance all over the world of 144,000 Jewish evangelists simultaneously appearing and beginning to preach the gospel of the kingdom, is another sign that this present age is about to close (Rev. 7). 3. The rise of the Anti-Christ as described in II Thess. 2, will be another sign to the peoples on the earth that the end of the age is fast approaching. In Dan. 9:26, 27 we have a description of his coming from the city of Rome with his covenant of peace with the children of Israel for seven years, which covenant will be broken at the end of three and a half years when the great tribulation will begin. The inaugural years of his reign shall be of unparalleled peace and prosperity, swiftly changing to persecution a~d reducing many to direct extremities during which two-thirds of the Jewish population will be destroyed from the face of the earth.
4. The rebuilding of the city of Babylon and its subsequent downfall as described in Rev. 18, will be another very striking sign that the end of the age is at hand. There are a few who deny the rebuilding of the city of Babylon, but a careful study of the prophecy of the description of the fall of Babylon will reveal the facts that none of these prophetic destructions has as yet been fulfilled, which will necessitate the rebuilding of Babylon in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.
5. The institution of a system of idolatry headed by the worship. of the beast and his image described in Rev. 13:15, will constitute Scriptural evidence that the end of the age will soon appear. One cannot but be impressed with the fact even today that there are evidences of many people turning from the worship of the Creator to the things which the Creator has produced – that is, transferring the affection from the Creator to the created.
6. After the rapture of the saints and the restoration of the Jews to their land and their subsequent conversion, there will be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” The attempt to place the fulfillment of this prophecy before the rapture is causing havoc in Christian circles today. All of these signs, wonders, and miracles after the rapture will be a sign of the end of the age.
7. The restoration of all the Jews to their land and their conversion to the Lord (Romans 11:25, 26) is a sign that this present age is drawing to a close.
8. The breaking out of wars under the leadership of the Anti-Christ is a harbinger of the end of the age (Dan. 9:26b).
9. The appearance of Elijah will be a Scriptural testimony to the fact that this age has run its course: “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse ” (Mal. 4:5, 6). While it is of intense interest and absolute necessity that we study these signs and be informed concerning them, they do not concern us except that we can see their shadows already beginning to appear, for nothing is truer in the prophetic Word than that coming events cast their shadows before them. The appearance of these shadows should be a sign to us Christians that the rapture of the saints is drawing near because that great event will take place before any of these above mentioned signs.
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your head; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
WHEN IS THE GOSPEL TO BE PREACHED IN ALL THE WORLD
“And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations,’ and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14).
Since the beginning of the Christian era, there has been a philosophy of missions in relation to the doctrine of the second coming of Christ based on the above verse of Scripture as follows: “The gospel must be preached in all the world to all nations before Jesus Christ can return for His saints.”
A careful reading of Matthew 24:14 will reveal two most pertinent facts: (1) It is the gospel of the KINGDOM that must be preached and NOT the gospel of grace. (2) The result attendant upon the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom is clearly set forth as the END and not the second coming of Christ.
Let us now treat these two fallacies in their given order. (1) What is the gospel of the kingdom, and (2) Wherein does it differ from the gospel of the grace of God?
The word “gospel” strictly, technically, and literally means, “good news.” It comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “godspell,” which is derived from two words “God” and “spell” – “spell” meaning “tale” or “story”; hence, God’s tale or story. Or yet again, God’s news or good news. Therefore, the word “gospel” in the evangelical sense means “good news of God.” The gospel of grace is the good news pertaining to the grace of God. The gospel of the kingdom is the good news of the establishment here on earth (in fulfillment of the covenant God made with David pertaining to his house and his throne) of His kingdom, over which the Seed of David as King would rule and reign for one thousand years.
The gospel of the grace of God is, “‘. . .. Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Cor. 15:3, 4).
Under the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom the nation of Israel was called upon to REPENT for her disobedience to the commandments of God; and after the crucifixion of Christ, she was called upon t() REPENT of her rejection and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Under the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God, individuals are called upon to BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 10:43; 16:30, 31; Rom. 1:16).
According to Matthew 10:5, 6, the gospel of the kingdom was to be preached only to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The preaching of the gospel of grace is to the Jew first, but it is ALSO TO THE GREEK (Rom. 1:16).
Under the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, they were to provide neither gold, nor silver, nor extra clothing (Matt. 10:9, 10). Under the preaching of the gospel of grace, they were to “provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Rom. 12:17). They were to distribute as the necessity of the saints demanded (I Tim. 6:18).
The gospel of the kingdom called for a man to sell all that he had and give all to the poor. (A rich man could hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven according to Matt. 19:21,23.) But under the gospel of grace, rich men are exhorted to do good with their riches and be ready and willing to distribute, and to communicate to those who have need. They are not charged