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Chapter 59

Signs of the Times

For what did Christ censure the Jewish people?
"O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Matt. 16:3.

What sign had Isaiah given by which Christ might be known as the Messiah?
"Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Isa. 7:14.

Was this fulfilled?
"Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel." Matt. 1:22, 23.

Where had the prophet said Christ should be born?
"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel." Micah 5:2.

Where was Christ born?
"Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea." Matt. 2:1.

What had been predicted of His ride into Jerusalem?
"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Zech. 9:9.

Was this fulfilled?
"All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, saying Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass." Matt. 21:4, 5.

Did the believers of these and other evidences of His Messiaship, expect a sign of His second coming?
"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?" Matt. 24:3.

How does Luke record our Saviour's answer to this query?
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." Luke 21:25, 26.

What is said of these signs by an Old Testament prophet?
"And I will show 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." Joel 2:30, 31.

Have the sun and the moon been darkened in fulfillment of these predictions?
They have, as stated in the following:
NOTE: "But especially I mention that wonderful darkness on the 19th of May [ 1780]. Then, as in our text, the sun was darkened; such a darkness as probably was never known before since the crucifixion of our Lord. People left their work in the house and in the field. Travelers stopped; schools broke up at eleven o'clock; people lighted candles at noonday; and the fire shown as at night. Some people, I have been told, were in dismay, and thought whether the day of judgment was drawing on. A great part of the following night, also, was singularly dark. The moon, though in the full, gave no light, as in our text." From a manuscript sermon by Rev. Elam Potter, delivered May 28, 1780.

"The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkably dark day. Candles were lighted in many houses. The birds were silent, and disappeared. The fowls retired to roost. It was the general opinion that the day of judgment was at hand. The Legislature of Connecticut was in session at Hartford, but being unable to transact business, adjourned." Pres. Dwight, in Conn. Historical Collections.

"My father and mother, who were pious, thought the day of judgment was near. They sat up that night, during the latter part of which they said the darkness disappeared, and then the sky seemed as usual, but the moon, which was at its full, had the appearance of blood." -- Milo Bostwick.

Herschel, the great astronomer, says: "The dark day in Northern America was one of those wonderful phenomena of nature which will always be read with interest, but which philosophy is at a loss to explain."

Has there been a display of falling stars that would meet the specifications predicted?
The celebrated astronomer and meteorologist, Prof. Olmstead, of Yale College, says: "Those who were so fortunate as to witness the exhibition of shooting stars on the morning of Nov.13, 1833, probably saw the greatest display of celestial fire works that has ever been since the creation of the world, or at least within the annals covered by the pages of history. . . The extent of the shower of 1833 was such as to cover no inconsiderable part of the earth's surface. . . This is no longer to be regarded as a terrestrial, but as a celestial, phenomenon; and shooting stars are now to be no more viewed as casual productions of the upper regions of the atmosphere, but as visitants from other worlds, or from the planetary voids." "Our Lord's Great Prophecy." page 35.

What may be said with reference to the late unusual ocean tempests?
Burnet, in his "Sacred Theory of the Earth," remarks: "Let us then proceed in our explication of this sign, the roaring sea and waves, applying it to the end of the world. I do not look upon this ominous noise of the sea as the effect of a tempest; for then it would not strike such terror into the inhabitants of the earth, nor make them apprehensive of some great evil coming upon the world, as this will do. What proceeds from visible causes, and such as may happen in a common course of nature, does not so much amaze or affright us."

The British Vice-Counsul at Arcia, Peru, thus describes a tidal wave of which he was an eye-witness: "What a sight! I saw all the vessels in the bay carried out irresistibly to sea; anchors and chains were as pack-thread. In a few minutes the great outward current stopped, stemmed by a mighty rising wave, I should judge about fifty feet [15-25 meters] high, which came in with an awful rush, carrying everything before it in its terribe majesty, bringing the shipping with it, sometimes turning in circles, as if striving to elude their fate."

"Few phenomena are more remarkable, yet few have been less remarked, than the degree to which material civilization—the progress of mankind in all those contrivances which oil the wheels and promote the comfort of daily life—has been concentrated in the last half century. It is not too much to say that in these respects, more has been done, richer and more prolific discoveries have been made, grander achievements have been realized, in the course of the fifty years of our lifetime, than in all the previous lifetimes of the race, since states, nations, and politics, such as history make us acquainted with, have had their being." -— London Spectator.

"Never was there such activity of invention within the history of mankind as at the present day."—Phrenological Journal, April, 1871.

"There are some problems we have hitherto deemed impossible; but are the mysteries of even the most improbable of them more subtle to grasp than that of the ocean cable or that of the electronic communications? We talk by satellite communications with an ocean rolling between. Under the blazing sun of July we produce ice by means which rival the most solid and crystalline production of nature. We make a mile of white printing paper, and send it on a spool that a perfect printing press unwinds and prints, and delivers to you, folded and counted, many thousands per hour. Of a verity, this is the age of invention, nor has the world reached a stopping place yet." -— Scientific American.

NOTE: These tidal waves, with the cyclones and tornadoes, have become fearfully frequent of late years, especially in sections where such things were never before known. And fear has seized the dwellers of the earth because of them. In the Western States of North America, especially, it is very common for householders to have caves close by their dwellings, so that when peculiarly shaped black clouds, that indicate a cyclone or tornado, appear, they may fly for safety to these places of refuge.

What other sign is to indicate the time of the end?
"But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." Dan. 12:4.
NOTE: The increase of knowledge referred to in this text evidently means, primarily, religious knowledge; but it covers scientific knowledge also. Since 1799 there have been five great Bible and tract societies organized; namely, the London Religious Tract Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, and the International Tract Society. From these have gone forth to the world more than 200 million Bibles, and countless pages of tracts, disseminating knowledge upon the truths of salvation. Besides these, millions of religious papers are being circulated in the various countries of the earth daily. This has all been accomplished since the nineteenth century.

What is predicted of the moral condition of the world in the last days?
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, . . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." 2 Tim. 3:15.
NOTE: Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage said not long ago: "I simply state a fact when I say that in many places the church is surrendering, and the world is conquering. Where there is one man brought into the kingdom of God through Christian instrumentality, there are ten men dragged down by dissipation . . . There is a mighty host in the Christian church, positively professing Christianity, who do not believe in the Bible from the first word of the first verse of the first chapter of the book of Genesis, down to the last word of the last verse of the last chapter of the book of Revelation. And when, a few Sabbaths ago, I stood in this pulpit and said, 'I fear that some of this audience will be lost for the rejection of Christ,' Why, there were four or five of the daily papers that threw up their hands in surprise at it. Oh! we have magnificent church machinery in this country; we have sixty thousand American ministers; we have costly music; we have great Sunday-school attendance; and yet I give you the appalling statistics that in the last twenty-five years, the churches of God in this country have averaged less than two conversions a year each. There has been an average of four or five deaths in the churches. How soon, at that rate, will this world be brought to God? We gain two; we lose-four. What will this come to?'
Spurgeon says: "Reflecting the other day upon the sad state of the churches at the present moment, I was led to look back to the apostolic times, and to consider wherein the preaching of the present day differed from that of the apostles."

How will the message of the Lord's coming be generally treated?
"Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days, scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation." 2 Peter 3:3, 4.

What will God's faithful servants be doing at this time?
"Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?" Matt. 24:45.
NOTE: The "meat in due season" here spoken of can refer to nothing else than a proclamation of the signs which indicate the near approach of the Lord. The preaching of these is evidently what causes scoffers mockingly to ask, Where is the promise of His coming?

What are all admonished to do when these signs have appeared?
"Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." Matt. 24:44.

What will be done to those evil ones who say in their hearts that the Lord delays His coming?
"The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matt.24:50, 51.

Copyright © 1988 Research Institute for Better Reading, Inc., used by permission by Project Restore, Inc. at www.projectrestore.com
Created: 07/15/02 Updated: 01/12/05