Four Signs that Mark the "Time of the End"
Many Bible prophecies predict the
conditions and events of our day as signs of the end of the
world—today’s headlines written nearly 2,000 years ago.
Consideration of these prophecies establishes:
(1) that the Bible is indeed the inspired Word of God;
(2) that we are living in unprecedented times prophesied
in Scripture as the “end of the world”; and
(3) that man is standing at the threshold of lasting
peace and economic security in a pollution-free earth.
Daniel 12:1 and 4 give four signs
that mark the “time of the end,” or end of the world:
That the first sign,
unprecedented trouble, is the hallmark of our time is confirmed
by historians. True, the world has always had trouble, but never
before has it been in such staggering proportions.
Wars: In the 20th century over 100 million lives were lost through war. From
1990 to 1995, 70 states involved in 93 wars killed 5.5 million
people. Forty wars were waged in 1999. The unprecedented
terrorism of September 11 marked 2001.
In his book Out of Control,
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor and
professor of American Foreign Policy at John Hopkins University,
notes that the 20th century began amid great hope and promise,
but became the century of insanity. In elaborating on his
observation of 175 million slaughtered in the name of the
“politics of organized insanity,” he says:
Contrary to its promise, the 20th
century became mankind’s most bloody and hateful century of
hallucinatory politics and of monstrous killings. Cruelty was
institutionalized to an unprecedented degree, lethality was
organized on a mass production basis. The contrast between the
scientific potential for good and the political evil that was
actually unleashed is shocking. Never before in history was
killing so globally pervasive, never before did it consume so
many lives, never before was human annihilation pursued with
such concentration of sustained effort on behalf of such
arrogantly irrational goals.
The population explosion and
industrialization of Third World nations accentuate the oil
crunch. Nations will go to war for oil. Many Third World nations
have the poor man’s bomb—chemical warfare, and are working on
actual nuclear warheads. Such volatile weaponry in the hands of
these regimes spells trouble. The economic and political
instability of the Soviet Union could result in a military coup.
Before 1650 A.D. the population doubled every 1,000 years. In
1804 A.D. the population was one billion. It doubled in 1927
(123 years later). And doubled again in 1974 (only 47 years
later). In 1990 the world population was 5.5 billion. By 2000
A.D. it increased one billion.
Up to 15 million people die of
starvation annually. There are 40 million refugees worldwide and
100 million homeless. Each day 40,000 babies die of starvation
in Third World countries, while Americans spend over $900
million yearly feeding dogs and cats.
The U.S. has 4.6 % of the world’s population, but annually
disposes of 290 million tons of toxic waste, uses 26% of the
world’s oil, 26% of the world’s coal, and 27% of the world’s
natural gas; releases 26% of the world’s nitrogen oxides; and
produces 25.5 % of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Air
pollutants from car exhaust and industry spawn disease. Deaths
from respiratory disease double every five years. Skin cancer
and cataracts caused by ozone depletion are increasing. From
1950 to 1980 melanomas increased by 500%.
Solid wastes, radioactive and
toxic chemical wastes are contaminating our rivers, lakes and
oceans. In the last 200 years, the U.S. has lost 50% of its
wetlands, 90% of its old-growth forests, and 99% of its
tall-grass prairie. The world is losing tropical forests at a
rate of almost 42 million acres per year, an increase of 50%
from a decade ago. At the current rate, tropical forests will be
gone within 115 years. Rain forests cover only 7% of Earth’s
surface, but contain over 50% of its species. Acid rain is
destroying our forests, which in turn will produce “global
“Except for nuclear war or a collision with an asteroid, no
force has more potential to damage our planet’s web of life than
global warming.” (Time Magazine, April 9, 2001) The 1990s
were the hottest decade on record. Over the 20th century,
Earth’s average temperature rose approximately one degree.
Warmer climates have widespread effects on the environment.
The sea level will rise as oceans
absorb heat from the atmosphere and expand. Polar ice caps will
melt. Increases in sea level will flood and erode coastal areas
inhabited by half the world’s population. Tropical storms will
become more frequent and intense. Weather patterns will become
extreme, causing flooding. Soil moisture will decrease impacting
crop failures and life-threatening droughts. “Breadbasket
farmland” (like our Midwest) will become barren desert. Markets
and food supplies will be disrupted. Severe food shortages will
Time is running out, according to
Lester R. Brown, president of the highly respected Worldwatch
Preceding generations have always
been concerned about the future, but ours is the first to be
faced with decisions that will determine whether the earth our
children inherit will be inhabitable.
Scientists are now concerned that
the population explosion could hasten and increase the effects
of global warming. Drastic climate changes resulting in economic
disaster in many nations could trigger wars for survival.
Drugs: We are losing the drug war because the huge profits are too corrupting.
There are 2.2 million hard-core drug users in the United States.
While one out of forty persons in New York City is hard-core,
nationally one out of one hundred are hard-core users. The
number of casual users is substantially higher. Is it any wonder
the crime rate is spiraling? Seventy percent of New York City’s
drug users are affluent. One thousand drug addicted babies are
born every day.
The U.S. ended 2003 with a staggering debt over $6.8 trillion
and a perilous foreign trade imbalance. The nineties were the
“decade of uncertainty.” Outstanding consumer credit debts have
increased from $349.4 billion in 1980 to $3,996 billion in 2003.
Indeed, our generation is
experiencing a “Time of Trouble such as never was since
there was a nation.”
sign is increased travel. Transportation has expanded rapidly
because of the automobile. Selden made the first automobile in
1877. Today there are over 600,000,000 cars. Through numerous
modes of transportation millions are crossing and recrossing
each other’s paths around the world. In the past 100 years, man
has increased his travel from 30 mph to 25,000 mph off the
planet to the moon.
If the increase of knowledge from
the dawn of history to the 1880s is given a value of one, then
knowledge has doubled 16 times within the last 10
years. One hundred years ago, 90 of the world’s population could
neither read nor write. Today, 40% of the world’s population can
read and write, and in the Western world literacy has reached
Ninety percent of all scientists
who have ever lived are alive today. Fifty percent of the
world’s inventions have been created in the last decade.
Sophistication in communications
allows man to see and hear throughout the world instantly. U.S.
homes with telephone answering devices jumped from 31% in 1990
to 74% in 2000. Cordless telephones jumped from 25% in 1990 to
78% in 2000. In 1989 there were 3.5 million cellular telephone
subscribers; by 1999 there were 86.0 million. In 1990 there were
9.9 million pagers; by 1999 there were 53.5 million.
In 1995, 31.7% households had
personal computers; by 2000, 53%. In the last decade, 66.3
million computers were sold. In 1993 there were 3 million
Internet users; by mid 1999 there were nearly 200 million; by
2000 there were 332.7 million.
historian, Barbara Tuchman has observed,
Man entered the 19th century
using only his own and animal power, supplemented by that of
wind and water, much as he had entered the Thirteenth, or for
that matter, the First. He entered the Twentieth with his
capacities in transportation, communication, production,
manufacture and weaponry multiplied a thousandfold by the energy
of machines. (The Proud Tower, Foreword, xvi)
Unprecedented travel and increase
of knowledge marks our day at the “time of the end.”
Israel Becomes a
The fourth sign which marks us at
the “time of the end” is that the Lord will stand up for
Daniel’s “people,” the Jewish nation. If we are living in this
“time of the end,” we should expect dramatic evidence of God’s
favor on behalf of the Jewish people.
Against this background, Matthew
24 becomes meaningful. “What shall be the sign of your coming
[Greek, parousia], and of the end of the world
[age]?” Matthew 24:3
Matthew 24:32-34 gives the
deliverance of Israel as one of these signs. “Now learn a
parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and puts
forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh: So likewise you,
when you shall see all these things, know that it is even at the
doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass,
till all these things be fulfilled.”
Students of prophecy from many
denominations generally recognize that the fig tree is pictorial
of the nation of Israel. (See Jeremiah, Chapter 24). In Matthew
21:19, Jesus cursed a fig tree because he found no fruit on it.
As a result of his cursing, the fig tree withered.
Several days later Jesus applied
the lesson of the withered fig tree. He proclaimed judgment on
the nation of Israel, “Behold, your house is left unto you
desolate” (Matthew 23:38) because it had not borne fruitage to
God. Israel was subsequently scattered and persecuted.
Israel’s restoration is an
outstanding sign of the end of the age. The fig tree coming back
to life and putting forth leaves represents Israel coming to
life as a nation and receiving God’s increasing favor.
Historians agree that Israel’s rebirth is a miracle of history.
Never before has a nation been destroyed, its people dispersed
to the ends of the earth and then—nearly 2,000 years later—its
descendants regathered to their homeland and re-established as a
Compare Luke 21:29-32 with
Matthew 24:32-34. The restoration of Israel means the kingdom is
“And he spoke to them a
parable: Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now
shoot forth, you see and know of your own selves that summer is
nigh at hand. So likewise you, when you see these things come to
pass, know you that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till
all be fulfilled.”
The generation that witnesses
Israel restored as a nation will also witness the complete end
of the world or age and the full establishment of the Kingdom of
Scriptures are charged with signs
that have become the headlines of our day. Jerusalem is no
longer trodden down by Gentiles (Luke 21:24). Many new nations
have gained independence (Luke 21:29-30). Evil is exposed as
never before (I Corinthians 4:5). Most people, even the
professedly religious, lack faith (Luke 18:8). Men love
themselves, have no respect for parents, and have no natural
affection (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Turmoil grows between labor and
capital (James 5:1-4). Wars and war preparations intensify (Joel
3:9-11). All the while men
proclaim “peace” (I Thessalonians 5:2-3). Men’s
hearts fail for fear (Luke 21:36).
sign bears consideration.
Nations on the Run —
Another Remarkable Prophecy
“Woe unto you that desire
the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the
LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a
lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his
hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.”
In Amos’ prophecy the fleeing man
represents the world’s experiences in this dark “time of
trouble.” At the dawning of our era, Great Britain ruled the
most expansive empire on earth. The lion in this prophecy,
Britain’s national symbol, appropriately illustrated the mighty
nation that devoured (colonized) weaker nations. Colonialism’s
suffocating grasping led to the world’s fleeing to another form
The man in Amos 5:20 escaped the
lion only to meet the bear—a form of government diametrically
opposed to the grasping greed of colonialism—communism! The
former Soviet Union, the “bear” of Amos’ prophecy, offered man
another hope for safety in this time of trouble. Communism’s
failure to rescue man was underscored by its precipitous fall.
Nations are now seeking another hope of security—nationalism.
Entering the “house” of
nationalism has been anything but comfortable for the nations of
the world. Bosnia, Serbia, Germany and other nations seeking
safety in nationalism have suffered civil war, economic malaise,
the rise of new “hate groups” and other ills. While in the
supposed security of ultra-nationalism (will church and state
reunite?) the people place their hand on the wall. Seeking rest
in the supporting structure of human government will result in
being bitten by the serpent. That old Serpent, the Devil and
Satan, which once deceived the nations to think that they were
Christ’s Kingdom (Revelation 12:9) will bite them again. Then
the nations will feel the rebuke of Jehovah in the great time of
“The weak say I am strong.”
Joel 3:10 Although few in numbers and limited in armaments, the
Islamic terrorists boast they will overthrow the “Great Satan,”
the U.S. and Christendom, Western Europe. Already,
fundamentalists in the large Islamic communties of Europe are
openly calling for “holy” Jihad.
All of these prophecies mark the
time when the present evil world is being destroyed. God is now
revealing Himself as never before in history, a revelation which
will climax with the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ on
Take heart—even though things
must get worse before they get better. It is the unprecedented
severity of world problems (Matthew 24:21) and the paralysis of
hopelessness (Luke 21:25) that mark us at the threshold of the
great Kingdom blessings which God has in store for man.
Just as urban renewal requires
the demolition of old structures, so the full establishment of
Christ’s Kingdom requires the removal of our corrupt
civilization (Hebrews 12:28). The present generation will see
the Kingdom in all its glory (Luke 21:21-32).
Why God Permits Evil
Justifiably, the question arises,
Why has God permitted man to suffer for thousands of years, and
then, only when Christ returns and establishes his Kingdom, is
all changed? The question of suffering and evil has always been
an enigma to man. Philosophers of all times and ages have
pondered the question, to no avail. But the Scriptures provide a
logical answer to this question which leaves one in awe.
Webster defines evil as “that
which produces unhappiness; anything which either directly or
remotely causes suffering of any kind.”
God desires mankind to live in
peace, harmony and happiness. He knows this will only happen as
each practices the principles of righteousness and love.
Otherwise evil will result with its consequences of suffering
Here we are faced with what can
be referred to as the “dilemma of God”—the planetary systems
move in mechanical obedience; the animal creation is driven
mainly by instinct; but God desired the human race to have a
free will and to “worship him in spirit and in truth” (John
4:24). God could have programmed the ideal man and utopia would
have been inevitable, but man would be no better than a robot,
nor would he be happy. Further, it is impossible to worship only
“in truth,” to obey truth and righteousness for what you can get
out of it without having the “spirit” or appreciation of
Out of sheer appreciation of the
principles of righteousness — worshiping in spirit—God desired
man to live in harmony with both his Creator and fellow man. God
knows it is only as man is fully motivated by the principles of
righteousness, that he can really attain happiness for himself
and be in that attitude of cheerful concern for the happiness of
The problems of free will choice
has a built-in dilemma. Man can rebel against his Creator. The
Lord was willing to bestow free will, fully cognizant that it
would cost Him dearly before man became fully responsible to
this freedom. What an awesome power! Man can stand in
stiff-necked rebellion against his Creator. He can refuse to
submit to God’s authority. He can refuse to accept God’s favor.
He can choose to avert the mercy of God and adamantly stand upon
his decision against God. For by free will, man is man, created
in the image of God, and neither an animal nor a machine.
Put yourself in God’s place to
appreciate this dilemma. A parent will tell his baby not to
touch the stove because it is hot. But, what does a baby know
about being burned? The anxious parent knows the inevitability
of the baby touching the stove before learning the consequence
of heat. A wise parent will create a controlled experience with
heat—lightly and quickly touching the child’s hand where the
heat is not too severe. And all through life parents will
admonish their children, knowing that they will only learn
certain lessons the “hard way”—by experience.
As our Father, God knew man would
not comprehend His warning about sin, disobedience and their
dire consequences. So God formulated a plan whereby man, through
his own choice, might first experience evil and then
righteousness (in God’s kingdom). This contrasting experience
will demonstrate the beauty and righteousness of God’s law and
the dire consequence of its violation as no other process could.
The recovery from sin is called
redemption in the Bible. Redemption simply means the release
from sin and death through the payment of a price. The thought
is similar to the releasing a person from prison when a
benefactor pays the fine the prisoner couldn’t afford. This
release through the death of Jesus is often considered as an
afterthought of God to salvage some of the human race. But the
depth of God’s wisdom is shown by His foresight in devising a
plan that provides for man’s free choice and experience with
evil, redemption through Christ and ultimate eternal happiness.
Thus, Isaiah 46:9-10 speaks of God knowing and declaring the end
from the beginning.
Eden: Actual History
The third chapter of Genesis is
the divinely provided history of man’s free will choice. God
instructed man that if he practiced righteousness, he would live
forever. If he disobeyed, then “dying he would die.” Death would
be a process of sorrow and suffering culminating with the grave.
Note well that death, not eternal torment, is the penalty for
sin (Genesis 2:17; Psalms 146:4). Like the child and heat, man
did not know what suffering and death were. He disobeyed. God is
now giving man a controlled experience with evil. We read in
Ecclesiastes 1:13 and 3:10, “This sore travail hath God given to
man to be exercised therewith.” Man’s travail with evil is for a
purpose, that he might be exercised or taught certain lessons by
Some will say, “Don’t tell me you
still believe in original sin! Just because Adam and Eve were
disobedient, the whole human race are sinners?” In I Timothy
2:13-14; I Corinthians 15:21-22; Romans 5:14; and John 8:44,
both Jesus and the apostles refer to the event in Eden as a real
time-space situation. What better proof can we have that the
Genesis account of Eden was actual history? Unfortunately, the
logic of this concept has been obscured by Dark Age
superstitions that have been attached to it, such as “hell
fire,” with a vindictive God who must be placated. Modern man is
rightly repelled by the superstitions contained in some church
theology, but these superstitions are not taught in the Bible.
Shorn of Dark Age theology, there is no better explanation of
man’s miserable plight than the Scriptural teaching of original
Another Look at Sin
Not too long ago, sin was treated
lightly. It was called “ignorance,” only a growing pain of the
human race. Give man a bit more education, let him become a
little more civilized and he will evolve out of his sin, leaving
evil behind him. But now we are not so sure. The heinous events
of World War II (12 million murders, leveled cities, gas
chambers), followed by the continuing senseless acceleration of
war, crime and violence (old people killed for kicks,
70-year-old women molested) and other immoralities, have forced
man to take a second look at the problem of evil.
A fresh look at sin is pointedly
reflected in the words of Dr. Cyril E. M. Joad, a noted
Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at the University of
London, and listed by the editor of The American Weekly
as one of the world’s great scientists. Joad said:
For years my name regularly
appeared with H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, and Aldous Huxley
as a derider of religion.... Then came the war, and the
existence of evil made its impact upon me as a positive and
obtrusive fact. The war opened my eyes to the impossibility of
writing off what I had better call man’s ‘sinfulness’ as a mere
by-product of circumstance. The evil in man was due, I was
taught, either to economic circumstance (because people were
poor, their habits were squalid, their tastes undeveloped, their
passions untamed) or to psychological circumstances. For were
not psycho-analysts telling me that all the regressive,
aggressive, or inhibited tendencies of human nature were due to
the unfortunate psychological environment of one’s early
The implications are obvious;
remove the circumstances, entrust children to psycho-analyzed
nurses and teachers, and virtue would reign.
I have come flatly to
disbelieve all this. I see now that evil is endemic in man, and
that the Christian doctrine of original sin expresses a deep and
essential insight into human nature.
As Dr. Joad, society is taking
another look at evil. It can no longer be considered a growing
pain. It is too deadly a disease to be explained away by
Speaking collectively of the
human race, the Psalmist said, “In sin did my mother conceive
me.” (Psalms 51:5) The Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12 says, “By one
man sin entered the world and death by sin; and so death passed
upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Since father Adam sinned, justice
required that he die. Before he died, Adam had children who were
born in sin. They inherited Adam’s imperfections. Thus, the
whole human race is born dying. This is how it is learning the
consequences of evil. But the permission of evil is a brief
controlled experience when compared with eternity. And what are
some of the grim lessons?
God permits evil to demonstrate
that man without God results in:
possible extinction through the H-bomb or pollution;
spends $900 million a year in the U.S. for pet food
while 5 million humans starve to death;
whose assets total billions of dollars while millions
live in poverty;
its deadly tentacles of pollution encircling the globe;
that are concrete jungles of crime and violence, filled
with faceless people experiencing life without meaning
and terrible loneliness.
God permits evil to prove that
man without God can only result in man’s inhumanity to man. What
is this world coming to? An understanding of what results when
man is separated from God.
The Problem of Communication
In our era of permissiveness, the
justice of God seems to be an offense to the rationalist. But
perhaps the problem is one of communication, which can be shown
in the simple illustration of an argument. All of us at sometime
have been engaged in an argument in which we really never
objectively listened to the other party. We were too busy
thinking of our answers to hear their logic. The rationalist is
carrying on a debate with God. If he would only stop and listen
to what God has explained in the historic account of Eden
(Genesis 3), he would catch a glimpse of the wisdom and justice
of God which becomes man’s guarantee of an eternity of
Is God’s Justice Severe?
Some question the severity of
God’s justice in the death penalty. Could not some other penalty
than death have been a just recompense for Adam’s disobedience?
No doubt some other penalty would have been just; however, God
chose this penalty because it best suited His overall plan for
mankind. Once Adam was informed that death was the penalty for
disobedience, then the penalty was fair.
A basic fact to always remember
is that God in His foreknowledge knew that Adam would disobey.
Therefore, long before the creation of Adam, God’s wisdom
devised a plan of recovery and ultimate happiness for the human
race that would require the death of His only begotten Son.
Thus, I Peter 1:19-20 and Ephesians 1:4-7 speak of the blood of
Christ as foreordained before the world began for the redemption
of mankind. The Creator used the time-space situation in Eden to
demonstrate the dependability of His justice. It is vital that
man knows that “justice and judgment [just decisions] are the
habitation of your [God’s] throne”—Psalms 89:14. Justice is the
foundation of the government of the universe, the basis of all
God’s dealings. Judgment is also spoken of as part of this
foundation. The Hebrew word here means “a just decision.” We can
take comfort in the realization that throughout eternity all of
God’s decisions will be just.
Man was placed in the Edenic
paradise to thoroughly enjoy the love of God. Suppose that after
Adam and Eve had lived obediently for a while, God changed His
mind and chased them out of the garden condition into the thorns
and thistles of the unfinished earth. His love would be
worthless, whimsical, because it was not based on justice. It
would be changeable.
Another hypothetical situation:
If when Adam disobeyed, God said, “Oh, I will overlook your
disobedience this time, I will not punish you as I promised to
do.” Adam might say, “Wonderful! I am surely glad God is more
loving than just.”
Wonderful? No! This would be
whimsical, capricious, arbitrary. The Creator and Ruler of the
universe could never be trusted throughout eternity. At any
time, in any place, with any order of intelligent creatures, God
might at the slightest whim change His mind and turn on His
creatures. Eden proved the unchangeableness of God’s justice.
God declares in Malachi 3:6, “I am Jehovah, I change not.” James
1:17 states, “The Father of lights in whom there is no
variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
How unchangeable is God’s
justice? So unyielding that God’s court of justice required the
payment of the costliest fine ever stipulated in a court of law.
What judge has been willing to give up his own innocent son to
death in order to cancel the debt of crime of the defendant?
Another Problem of
Our Creator wants us to know the
depths of His love, that He is the most loving Being in the
universe. How can God communicate this to our finite minds? In
human relationships words of love can be quite meaningless.
Actions speak louder than words. How did God show His love? With
tender Fatherly emotions of sorrow, God took the dearest
treasure of His heart, His only Begotten Son, and sent him to
earth to suffer and die at the hands of man. At great cost to
Himself, the wisdom of God formulated a plan which reveals that
He is both just (unyielding justice) and the justifier
(benefactor) of mankind (Romans 3:25-26).
The simple events of Eden and
Calvary tell so much about our God. Calvary is the greatest
manifestation of love and mercy in the history of the universe.
The combination of Eden and Calvary stand as a pledge throughout
eternity that there is no variableness, neither shadow of
turning in God’s justice.
The world is, therefore, by
experience coming to an understanding of God’s ways.