by David A. Reed COMPLETE BOOK ONLINE
Why Now? Precedents
Besides recent events that have turned the status of Jerusalem into a problem for the whole world, in apparent fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy, are there any other reasons to believe that the Bible's end times scenario is about to play out?
Yes. There are numerous other indicators that fit together, like the pieces of a puzzle, to point to God's coming intervention in the affairs of mankind.
Those who know God realize that he does not change. So, he must feel the same way about the same sorts of provocations that prompted him to act in the past. Looking at his past interventions should give us clues as to the timing of the coming apocalypse.
Consider, for example, the flood of Noah's day and the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. God took drastic action in both cases to put an end to rampant sexual immorality and violence. He did so by sending a global deluge to destroy the corrupt world of Noah's contemporaries, and he did so again on a local scale when homosexuality was being practiced openly in those notorious cities. As the apostle Peter wrote, "...God...did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly." (2 Peter 2:4-6 NKJV)
God has not changed. He still feels the same way about the sexual misconduct that he put a stop to by those acts of destruction. "God reduced the entire cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes, when he sentenced them to destruction as a fearful example to those who wanted to live in defiance of his laws. ... Sodom and Gomorrah...who, in the same way as these men today, gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion..." (2 Peter 2:6, Jude 7 Phillips) If he came down from heaven back then to put a stop to the rampant, open practice of homosexuality in Sodom and Gomorrah, can we expect that he will put up with today's world for long?
One need only visit a movie theater or turn on a television to see the depths of moral depravity that characterize modern society. Men and women openly live together without benefit of marriage, millions of children are born out of wedlock, and major cities host "gay pride" parades that bring politicians and dignitaries out into the streets in support of homosexuality.
Here in Massachusetts the 1990's saw Republican governor William Weld establish the Governor's Office of Gay and Lesbian Affairs as an official unit within the state house overlooking Boston Common. Homosexual outreaches to students and young people were undertaken with state sponsorship.
America now has numerous public officials who openly identify themselves as homosexuals: mayors, legislators and other office-holders, both elected and appointed. The entertainment community is similarly infiltrated, if not dominated, by homosexuals and others who despise biblical morality. As a result, homosexual themes abound in popular motion pictures and televisions shows. With televised programs featuring even such blatant titles as "Queer as Folk," TV viewers invite lebians and homosexuals into their living rooms and spend time watching dramas that center around their perverted lives.
Homosexuals protest that they are not to blame; they were born that way. Some even blame God, saying that he made them that way. But that argument is not valid. Isaiah says:
"Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'He has no hands'? Woe to him who says to his father, 'What have you begotten?' or to his mother, 'What have you brought to birth?'" (Isaiah 45:9-10 NIV)
Adam's sin brought all sorts of sinful tendencies into the gene pool. Some of Adam's offspring have inherited a tendency toward drunkenness, others toward greed or thievery, still others toward sexual immorality of every stripe. Does that inherited tendency justify the behavior? Does a man with inborn inclinations toward pedophilia and child molestation find justification in a court of law by saying, "I was born that way"? Does a thief avoid a prison sentence for his crime by pointing to inherited tendencies? No, because people are responsible for their actions. People who know themselves and their weaknesses need to work on those weaknesses and to fight against the pull of the flesh toward wrongdoing.
But God does not leave wretched man alone, to struggle in a losing battle against sin. Those who turn to God for help receive it. And, with God's help, any sin can be conquered or held in check. Proof is found in the early Christian congregation, where the Apostle Paul said he found believers who had been born with all sorts of sinful tendencies, including homosexuality, but who had broken free from sin through the power of Christ in their lives:
"Don't you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV)
Yes, even "male prostitutes" and "homosexual offenders" can change so that Paul could say they "were" those sorts of people, but now were no longer like that. They can be washed, sanctified, and justified by the power of God's Holy Spirit.
But, when a society is dominated by people who exercise their free will to rebel against God by exalting sexual immorality and perversion, we can expect that it will not be long before God steps in to put a stop to it. He brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and sent them as divine executioners against the corrupt and immoral Canaanites. He rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. He brought the global deluge on the corrupt world of Noah's day. And the condition of our world today makes it ripe for a similar catastrophe.
Another major divine intervention into human affairs took place at the Tower of Babel. Does it, too, shed light on the coming apocalypse? Yes. Today's world has become, in many respects, similar to the world before Babelthe world that provoked God's intervention at that time.
Instead of scattering about to populate the whole planet as God intended, these offspring of Noah concentrated themselves in the plains of Shinar. Instead of forming an agrarian society on small family farms, they chose to build an urban society centered in the town or small city of Babel. And there they undertook building "a tower that reaches up to the heavens." (Genesis 11:4 NIV)
Likewise, over the past century much of mankind has left the farm and moved to cities centered around tall buildings. The shift from rural life to city life has been accompanied by the decay in morals the increase in violence that is called to mind by the very expression, 'the inner city.'
But the similarity to Babel does not end there. Before putting a stop to the building activity in that ancient city, God said, "as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this," and added that he was taking action because, otherwise, "nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them." (Genesis 11:6 NIV) How true! With the return to urban society in recent decades, mankind has split the atom, gone to the moon, and deciphered the human genome.
Will God allow his actions at Babel to be permanently undone by a re-united human society? Modern electronic techniques allow an Egyptian leader to speak to the world from a podium at the United Nations, while his audience listens to simultaneous translations in Russian, English, French, Chinese, and so on. No wonder we have again reached the stage where it seems 'nothing is impossible' that man may undertake to do. God intervened when that stage was reached at the Tower of Babel. Won't he do so again?
Jesus' disiples were familiar with the prophecies of the Old Testament. They knew that God's intervention was coming, and they were interested in knowing more about it. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all contain parallel accounts of the disciples asking Jesus for signs. They asked about when Jerusalem's Temple would be destroyed, and what would be the sign of the end of the world, and of Christ's return. Jesus' response addressed all three issues.
"'Tell us,' they said, 'when will this [the destruction of the Temple] happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?' Jesus answered: 'Watch out that no one deceives you...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.'" (Matt. 24:3-14 NIV)
Then Jesus continued, giving new information as well as quoting earlier Hebrew prophecies: "'So when you see standing in the holy place "the abomination that causes desolation," spoken of through the prophet Daniellet the reader understandthen let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. ... Immediately after the distress of those days "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken." At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. ... you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.'" (Matt 24:15-44 NIV)
Luke's account of the same sermon included these additional details: "'When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. ...When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. ... when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. ... Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.'" (Luke 21:20-36 NIV)
How are we to understand these answers? Part of Jesus' response dealt with the destruction of Jerusalem's Temple which took place according to secular history in the year seventy A.D. At that time Roman armies under general Titus destroyed the city and the temple, leaving not even a stone upon a stone, as Jesus said. Surviving Jews were sold into slavery or sent into exile.
What about the portions of Jesus' answer that dealt with the end of this world and his future return in power? This is the more difficult part to interpret.
Have there been signs in the sun, moon and stars? Our modern age has had its share of meteor showers and spectacular comets. But those recent events don't really qualify as being unique or outstanding. Perhaps the signs Jesus was referring to are the manned space flights, the construction of an international space station, and human landings on the moon. Those truly are signs never seen before in world history. "The powers of heaven will be shaken" (Matt. 24:29 Jerusalem Bible), and the powers of the heavens have been shaken, indeed, in the sense that the heavens above us have lost their power over mankind. The heavens are no longer out of reach. For roughly a hundred years now man has been sending airplanes up into the sky. More recently men have gone to the moon, and have inhabited a space station circling in the heavens above the earth. Yes, it can certainly be said that there have been "signs in the sun, moon and stars" and that the heavens have been shaken.
Some associate "'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel" with the Roman armies and the idolatrous insignia they carried when they undermined the Temple walls in 66 A.D., before withdrawing and giving those in Judea the opportunity to "flee to the mountains" before returning in 70 A.D. and destroying the Jewish capital. Others might point to the Islamic mosques that presently occupy the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Still others might see a future fulfillment in a rebuilding of the Temple during the coming tribulation and its subsequent desecration by the antichrist. Time will tell which view is correct.
A key part of Jesus' prophecy, howeverand a part that definitely applies to the end of this world, rather than to the end of the Jewish system of temple worshipis this statement: "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." (Matt. 24:14 NIV) The apostles reached throughout the Roman empire with the gospel message, and Christian missionaries down through the ages have spread the Good News to every continent. But it is only recently that it can truly be said that the gospel is being preached in the whole world.
Aside from the nations of Christendom, where there are churches proclaiming the gospel in every city and town, there are Christian missionaries and native churches nearly everywhere. Even in communist China there are millions of believers. And, in fundamentalist Islamic states where Christian preaching is strictly prohibited, the population still hears the gospel message via satellite TV. The dishes adorn rooftops everywhere, and Arabic-language Christian programming is popular despite the outward pretenses in Muslim lands.
Moreover, the so-called "Information Age" is here, with the Internet as a key component, so that people worldwide may be sufficiently informed to choose God's side. Could this be more than a coincidence? Could it actually be what the angel of prophecy was speaking about when he told the Hebrew prophet Daniel, "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." (Daniel 12:4 KJV) Planes, trains and automobiles allow people today to "run to and fro" as never before in history, and the 'information super highway' of cyberspace has made every sort of knowledge available to every remote corner of the Earth.
Does the Internet really play a role in the outworking of God's master plan for mankind? Or, is it purely coincidental that the world wide web has emerged upon the scene at this time in history? I think it is reasonable to ask this question, although an authoritative answer cannot be found at this time.
It was Vice President Al Gore who dubbed the Internet the "information super highway." Like a paved road, it smooths the way for people to gain fast access to facts, and like a highway that stretches for hundreds of miles, it brings together widely scattered people into a global community.
That metaphor for the world wide web recalls to my mind this passage of Scripture:
"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it." (Isaiah 40:3-5 King James Version)
Does the Creator of the universe need a highway or a paved road to travel on? Does he need to have the landscape cleared of obstacles and the way made smooth for him to travel from one location to another? No, not at all. But people do. People face obstacles to learning about God. Yes, "narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." (Matthew 7:14, New King James Version) But now, as the end approaches, God has smoothed the way for people to approach him by receiving and responding to the gospel message.
Prior to the global Deluge of Noah's day, as that catastrophe approached, the world was not left without warning. In the years leading up to it, Noah was "a preacher of righteousness." (2 Peter 2:5 NIV) The world heard his message and rejected it, so that only eight souls were saved in the Ark. How did they hear? Did word spread slowly via travellers who told the latest news when they reached far-off destinations? Or, had the human population prior to the Flood not yet filled the earth? Had they remained concentrated in one area, like the builders of Babel's tower in the plains of Shinar? Or had some forms of mass communication been invented prior to the Deluge, allowing Noah to reach a wider audience?
We won't know the answer to that, until we have opportunity to question Noah in the resurrection. But, it is clear how the Bible message is reaching the world in our modern day. And it seems only natural that the world should have a collective consciousness in the end times predicted in the Bible: not some mystical melded mind, but a common awareness of events world wide through the media of mass communication.
With Christian missionary organizations funding the worldwide broadcast of the gospel message over satellite TV, and the Bible and biblical teaching available everywhere via the Internet, Christ has indeed been "preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations." All have been warned. "And then the end will come," Jesus said. (Matt. 24:14 NIV)
Still, the real meaning of world events is hidden from those who choose wickedness. Many, though they fill their heads with knowledge, fail to gain true understanding and wisdom. That is because the heart is also involved. "And he [the angel of the Lord] said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." (Daniel 12:9-10 KJV)
In the verses immediately before saying, "Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God," Isaiah placed his statement in this context: "Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins." (Isaiah 40:1-2 KJV)
Why did the Jews need to return to the Promised Land in the final part of the days? Their presence there in a restored state of Israel with Jerusalem as their capital was essential to fulfillment of the prophecies about the return of Christ.
The First World War is usually discussed in terms of the political intrigues of Europe. But, viewed from a biblical standpoint, its truly significant aspects were the deliverance of the Promised Land from the Ottoman Turks to British control, followed by the Balfour Declaration, which laid the basis for re-establishment of the Jewish state.
As time neared for the predicted restoration of Israel to the Promised Land, unseen demonic enemies inspired Hitler to undertake the extermination of the Chosen People in an effort to thwart fulfillment of prophecy. The lasting significance of the Second World War was that diabolical efforts to annihilate the Jewish people before their return to Israel where thwarted.
Jerusalem has been the focus of international tension for thousands of years. But only now is the whole world involved. Only now is the whole world concerned about terrorism spilling over everywhere from the conflict centered around the ancient Holy City. Terrorists citing the status of Jerusalem as a principal grievance have struck in New York, in Indonesia, at the Pentagon not far from Washington, D.C., in Casablanca, and throughout the Middle East. Terrorist cells have been broken up and alleged terrorists arrested in Germany and in Italy. The whole world is in fear.
Also for the first time the whole world has a decision making body, and that decision-making body is beginning to use military force to enforce its resolutions. All down through history the dominant world power was able to enforce its will. But now there is a world body representing all the nations that is able to act in a united fashion in regard to Jerusalem.
At the same time the Internet has brought a single consciousness to the entire planet. People everywhere can read the Jerusalem Post simply by going to www.jpost.com. The Arab view of the conflict can be learned by anyone anywhere in the world by going to any one of a number of web sites. When there are casualties in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, people around the world can see the victims on television or on the Internet. The emotions of the whole planet are involved with one side or another in Jerusalem.
In centuries past the world powers had policies toward Jerusalem, and the city's immediate neighbors had policies toward Jerusalem. But only in our generation do we find that China has a policy toward Jerusalem, and Japan has a policy toward Jerusalem, and Indonesia has a policy toward Jerusalem. Nations in south of America have their policies toward Jerusalem. The many countries of Africa have policies toward Jerusalem. Inhabitants of islands in the Pacific Ocean have policies toward Jerusalem. And events in and around Jerusalem result in terrorism and bombings in islands in the Pacific Ocean.
So it is only in our day that it has become possible for Jerusalem to be a problem for the whole world and for all the nations of the world to unite in imposing their solution.