THINGS TO COME

March 26, 2010

Is man about to destroy himself? Is the end of the world in sight? What does the future hold? What is going to happen next? These are typical of many questions asked the writer today.

There is “order” in the plan and purposes of God, and so far as the Scripture is concerned, the next great prophetic event will be the rapture of the saints. A close study of Hebrews 11 reveals the order in which things are to take place in regard to Christian experience and the consummation of the age. Since all the characters mentioned in this chapter are not enumerated in their chronological order, it is evident that the order speaks of their typical fulfillment.

Abel, with the blood sacrifice, typifies the Christian coming under the blood of Christ through faith. This sets forth the beginning of this age as the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The next event listed in Hebrews 11 is the translation of Enoch, which typifies the truth that after the shedding of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the next great prophetic event is the translation of the saints. After Enoch comes Noah, and the judgment of God upon the world. This, then, sets forth a type about which there can be no uncertainty: the great tribulation follows the rapture. This establishes as a certain fact, in the light of many concurring Scriptures, that the next great prophetic event is the rapture.

Two or three Scriptures describe this event. In I Cor. 15:20-23, we see Christ as the Firstfruit. Then, whenever man is raised, it is in his own company. They that are Christ’s shall be raised at His coming. These are divided into two distinct groups according to I Thess. 4:16,17. The dead in Christ rise first, then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. There is no room here for a split rapture or a division of the saints because the above verse of Scripture says that ALL the dead in Christ and ALL the living Christians are caught up.

There are two major events in the life of a Christian as related to this earth. The first one is that moment when he is born from above, and the second is when he is caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

In looking at the major events relative to the end time, first there is the rapture, or the raising of the dead in Christ and the translation of the living Christians. Immediately after the rapture there are events transpiring on the earth, and at the same time, events are taking place in heaven.

The first event to take place in the heavens with the raptured saints is the judgment seat of Christ. This is the time and place when Christians are called to a personal accounting of the life they have lived after they are saved. There will be rewards, honors, positions of prestige, and glory for the faithful. There will be loss, shame, chastisement and grief for the unfaithful. There is no escaping the issues of this judgment. It will be one of absolute justice, and Christians will get just exactly what they deserve on the basis of their works — nothing more, nothing less. Do not be deceived by the false teaching that Christians will not reap the evil deeds done after they are saved.

The judgment seat of Christ is followed by the marriage of the Lamb. The issues of the judgment seat determine who will constitute the bride. Rev. 19:7, 8 gives the truth that the bride is composed only of those Christians who have a wedding garment; and this garment is made up of the righteous acts of the saints. If the judgment seat of Christ reveals that a Christian has no good works, he will suffer loss and therefore have no wedding garment, neither will he be a part of the bride of Christ, even though he has eternal life by the grace of God. One would do well to study an Oriental wedding and see that there are many other parties at a wedding ceremony other then the bridegroom and the bride. The marriage of the Lamb has only to do with New Testament saints, and these will be further divided into many groups other than just the bride.

The marriage of the Lamb is followed by the wedding feast, which does not include all of the wedding party. The Scripture speaks of the blessedness of those who are invited to the feast (Rev. 19:9).

Now, in turning our attention earthward, the first thing to take place on the earth after the rapture of the saints is the sealing of the 144,000 Jews who will preach the gospel of the kingdom to the Gentiles during the tribulation (Rev. 7).

As soon as the sealing of the 144,000 is completed, the antichrist is made manifest. His appearance marks the beginning of the tribulation, a period of seven years, the latter part of which is known as the great tribulation. This period is described in the Revelation from chapter 6 through chapter 18. During this time great multitudes of Gentiles will be saved, many of whom will be martyred. The great majority of the nation of Israel will be destroyed when the antichrist makes war against the Lord’s chosen people. This entire period of seven years is called the time of Jacob’s trouble and is spoken of as a time of suffering, the like of which the world has never seen nor will ever experience again. The only Jews who will be spared during this period is that remnant which will be saved when they look on the Lord Jesus Christ at the time of His descent to the earth. This is the event we shall discuss next.

Rev. 19:11 opens up the events of the end time in chronological order as Jesus comes with His holy angels to reap vengeance on the earth dwellers and to establish His reign of one thousand years. The Scripture teaches that the first thing to take place when Christ returns to the earth is the salvation of all the living Jews (Zech. 13:6-9; Rev. 1:7; Rom. 11:25-27). Very likely at this same time there will be a resurrection of the dead Jews in their bodies of flesh, blood and bones who, with the above mentioned Jews, go into the Millennium as God’s earthly people (Dan. 12:1; Ezek. 37:11-14).

The Lord Jesus Christ will then gather all the Gentiles before Him and will divide them into two groups known as the sheep and the goats. The sheep will be the nations who believed the gospel of the kingdom and were saved. The goats will be the ones who did not believe the gospel of the kingdom. The fact of their salvation will be manifested by their good works, especially by their treatment of the brethren of our Lord (the Jews). The unsaved ones (goats) will be the vast multitude to be destroyed in the Battle of Armageddon. The saved ones, known as the sheep, will constitute the Gentile nations who go into the Millennium also as an earthly people.

We see how that the location of the peoples for the thousand-year reign of Christ is as follows: The New Testament saints will be in the new Jerusalem located in the heavens. They are the heavenly people of the Lord. This group will be made up both of Jews and Gentiles saved between Pentecost and the rapture. The people of the earth will be the whole house of Israel. They will be made up of the Old Testament saints who died and are raised from their graves to possess the land, and the living Jews who are saved at the return of Christ to the earth and are restored to the land of Palestine. The Gentile nations saved during the tribulation, together with the above, make up the people who will live here on the earth.

The binding of Satan may well be the next event to transpire when he shall be cast into the abyss for the duration of the Millennial reign.

Christ will then set up His kingdom with Himself as the King of kings (Rev. 19:16). David will be raised to reign over the house of Israel (Ezek. 37:24, 25; Jer. 30: 9; Hos. 3:5). The twelve apostles will be given positions of authority over the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. 19:28); and the Christians who qualify, will reign over various cities (Luke 19:16-19).

At the end of the Millennium, Satan will be loosed for a season, and with the vast number born during the Millennium who will not confess Christ as Saviour will make war against Him and the city of Jerusalem (Rev. 20:7-9). Satan will then be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where, with the beast and the false prophet who are cast in at the beginning of the Millennium, he will be tormented forever and ever. The present heavens and earth will then pass away — be completely annihilated.

Next is the appearance of the Great White Throne before which will be gathered the unbelievers of all ages as well as the fallen angels. Their portion in the lake of fire will be made known on the basis of their evil deeds; and all whose names are not in the book of life shall be cast into the lake of fire to be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Then shall appear the new heavens and the new earth. The new Jerusalem, the home of Christ and His saints, will come down to earth as the capital of the new earth. The saved among the Jews and the Gentiles who came though the Millennium will come into the new earth as Jews and Gentiles; so it seems that the new earth will be peopled by the New Testament saints as one group, the redeemed nation of Israel as another group, and the redeemed Gentile nations as another.

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SIGNS OF HIS COMING

March 25, 2010

1. There is to be a great conflict between labor and capital. This is foreshadowed in James 5:1-8:

 “Come now, you rich [people]; weep aloud and lament over the miseries — the woes — that are surely coming upon you. Your abundant wealth has rotted and is ruined and your [many] garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are completely rusted through, and their rust will be testimony against you and it will devour your flesh as if it were fire. You have heaped together treasure for the last days. [But] look! [Here are] the wages that you have withheld by fraud from the laborers who have reaped your fields, crying out (for vengeance), and the cries of the harvesters have come to the ears of the Lord of hosts. [Here] on earth you have abandoned yourselves to soft (prodigal) living and to [the pleasure of] self-indulgence and self-gratification. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the (innocent) righteous [man, while] he offers no resistance to you. So be patient, brethren, (as you wait) till the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits expectantly for the precious harvest from the land. [See how] he keeps up his patient [vigil] over it until it receives the early and late rains. So you also must be patient. Establish your hearts — strengthen and confirm them in the final certainty — for the coming of the Lord is very near” (Amplified N.T.).

2. There will be a great moral decay of society. We see this in II Tim. 3:1-5:

 “But understand this, that in the last days there will set in perilous times of great stress and trouble-hard to deal with and hard to bear. For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate (greedy) desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffers), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane. [They will be] without natural (human) affection (callous and inhuman), relentless — admitting of no truce or appeasement. [They will be] slanderers — false accusers, trouble makers; intemperate and loose in morals and conduct, uncontrolled and fierce, haters of good. [They will be] treacherous (betrayers), rash (and) inflated with conceit. [They will be] lovers of sensual pleasures and vain amusements more than and rather than lovers of God. For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it — their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession. Avoid [all] such people — turn away from them” (Amplified N.T.).

3. There will be a passing of personal liberties and freedoms. Already can be seen the foregleam of that which is prophesied in Rev. 13:15-17:

 “And he was permitted [also] to impart the breath of life into the beast’s image so that the statue of the beast would actually talk, and to cause to be put to death those who would not bow down and worship the image of the beast [Dan. 3:5]. Also he compels all [alike], both small and great, both the rich and the poor, both free and slave to be marked with an inscription (stamped) on their right hands or on their foreheads. So that no one will have power to buy or sell unless he bears the stamp (mark, inscription), [that is], the name of the beast or the number of his name” (Amplified N.T.).

Today there is a centralized trend in government, religious totalitarianism, and the attempt of the National Council of Churches to curtail all freedoms of non-conformist churches and Christians.

After the appearance of false Christs, the Lord says in verse 6: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” The most striking thing in this verse is that whereas there will be wars and rumors of wars until the time of the Lord’s return, the end is not set forth in an era of peace or wars. The Scripture speaks of three great conflicts that will take place before the end of all things; so we are not to be particularly upset or excited when we hear of wars and rumors of wars. But the Lord says there is coming a day when “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (v. 7). Here He is saying that someday there is coming a world-wide war. Prior to this, conflicts will have existed on a lesser scale. For instance, back when the Philistines and the children of Israel were engaged in conflicts, often a champion was chosen from each side such as David and Goliath, and the winner won the battle for his entire side. On other occasions a few men would be chosen to engage in the conflict. Then there were those days when just fighting men of different groups fought; but it was not until 1914-’18 that the world was involved in a conflict in which not only the men of war engaged, but also the civilians, both men and women. The importance of determining whether or not the conflict of 1914-’18 was such is to be found in verse 8. The Lord states conclusively that a world-wide conflict involving men, women and children, followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places would be THE sign of His coming.

Notice verse 8 carefully. He says THESE things (the above designated) constitute the beginning of sorrows, or travail, as it is in the Greek text. Weymouth translates that verse: “All these are but like the earliest pains of childbirth.” What Jesus literally said was that a worldwide conflict followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes was the first birth pang announcing the birth of a new era, and this would be the harbinger of His return and attendant events. Because He did not specify whether it would be the first, second, third, fourth or fifth time this happened seems to mean it was to be the first time a world-wide conflict took place. Our own conviction is that THE sign of the Lord’s approaching advent was World War I, which was followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in unparalleled number and intensity. We are not left in doubt at all concerning this because in verse 9, the Lord says: “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.”

Now in order to understand this verse, one must also understand the expression “all nations.” The word translated nations is also translated heathen in some instances, and Gentiles in other instances. It is an expression used by the Holy Spirit to distinguish this group of people from the nation of Israel. What the Lord is saying in verse 9 is that they (the Gentiles) will deliver the Jews up to be afflicted and shall kill them, and they (the Jews) shall be hated by all the Gentiles for His name’s sake. The expression “for His name’s sake” is the reason for anti-Semitism. Israel is hated, reviled, bemeaned, persecuted, and killed simply and solely because God chose her for His own people as a nation. He has not so dealt with any other nation (See Rom. 9:4, 5).

Now let us tie our Scriptures together thus far. Jesus said that the sign of His coming would be a world-wide war, followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places, which would soon be followed by a worldwide persecution of the Jews in which they would be hated by all of the Gentiles and in which many would be killed. At the beginning of World War II there was a wave of anti-Semitism which swept over the world including even our own United States.

In those days we heard one of our greatest automobile manufacturers and another who was the idol of America because of his aviation feat speak over the radio from time to time, castigating the Jews and charging them with everything conceivable to a mind that was activated by Satan himself. Such a wave of Jewish hatred was built up in the hearts of the American people that had it not been for the Pearl Harbor debacle there is no doubt but that experiences would have been observed in the United States similar to the ones which took place in Germany under Hitler as he sought the decimation of the Jewish race. It was during this time that two boat loads of Jewish refugees came to our shores seeking a haven. And they were not only refused entrance here, but also in Mexico, South America, and Africa; and they had to return to Germany to be destroyed along with more than six million others who died in that wave of Jewish hatred. Just conceive for one moment if you can, of over one-third of the Jewish population being wiped off the face of the earth, and for no other reason thanthat the Lord God Almighty chose them for His own. That is what He means when He says, “For my name’s sake.”

In verses 32 and 33, we have the parable of the fig tree. A study of the Scripture reveals that the Lord uses several different trees to symbolize certain aspects of Israel’s witness. The olive tree symbolizes Israel and her covenant relationship to the Lord (Rom. 11); the grapevine symbolizes the spiritual blessings which are to flow from Israel (Isa. 5); the fig tree symbolizes Israel as a nation (Mark 13:28, 29; Luke 21:29-31). The Lord came and sought fruit from the nation of Israel for three years and found none, and He ordered the fig tree — the nation — cut down. The husbandman pled for another chance, so Israel’s life was extended; but when Israel persisted in bearing no fruit, the nation was set aside and the Gentiles were given the opportunity of being Jehovah’s witness (Rom. 11:15-25). We learn from this parable and many others that Israel is to be restored (See also Isa. 11; Ezek. 39: 25-29).

Now back to Matthew 24:32. When the Lord says to learn a parable of the fig tree, He is setting forth the truth that the fig tree symbolizes something else, and from other Scriptures we note that it symbolizes the nation of Israel. Trees are used to symbolize nations (See Judges 9:8; Dan. 4). So in this parable He tells us that when the branch is yet tender and has just put forth its leaves, you know that summer is nigh; that is, when Israel becomes a nation again, and very soon thereafter, you know that something is about to happen. It is in verse 32 that we learn what is about to happen. Jesus says, “When ye shall see all these things, know that He (literal translation) is near, even at the doors.” Keep in mind that on May 14, 1948, the fig tree put forth her branch. Israel became a nation. Here then is a summation of the answer the Lord gave to the question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming?”

1) False Christs shall appear, deceiving many. This has been true for years.

2) There shall be wars and rumors of wars. These are ever present.

3) There will be a world-wide war followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. This took place in 1914-18.

4) This was to be followed by a world-wide persecution of the Jews, with many of them being killed. This took place in 1939-45, in which over six million were killed.

5) This was to be followed by the fig tree budding again. This took place when Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948.

Jesus said when you see all these things taking place, know that He is near, even at the doors. He also said that THIS GENERATION (the generation which sees the beginning of these things) shall not pass away until all these things have been fulfilled. A generation, according to the Scripture, is threescore and ten years, and if by reason of strength, fourscore. We are not setting any dates, neither attempting to. We are just trying to interpret the Word of God.

THE SIGN OF HIS COMING

March 23, 2010

(Matthew 23:37 – 24:1-14) “What shall be the sign of thy coming?”  is one of the questions asked by the disciples in the Olivet discourse. This question is answered by the Lord, and His answer should be a beacon light for all who are looking for His return.

During the last week of our Lord’s earthly ministry He went daily into the city of Jerusalem, but returned to the Olive Garden where He spent the night. These nights were given almost wholly to prayer. On one occasion the Lord uttered His lament over Jerusalem as recorded in Matthew 23:37:

 “0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” He then pronounced Israel’s fate in the words of verse 38: “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

One must fix in his mind that the Lord prophesied desolation upon the city, the temple and the people. The word house in regard to Israel is used to refer to the land, the city, and the people. This prophesied desolation made an impact upon the disciples, and as they left the temple on that evening they pointed out the massive building to the Lord as if to refute His prophecy of desolation. This temple was the building which Herod had taken forty-six years to build. It was reputed to have many stones in it 12x20x40 feet — stones quarried out of rock of that dimension making it an architectural and engineering phenomenon. The beauty of it was such that a common saying was, “If you have not seen Herod’s temple, you do not know beauty.” It was inconceivable to the disciples that such a building should be made desolate. Our Lord’s reply was, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.” The magnitude of the desolation was overpowering; and when they reached the Mount of Olives and were alone, the disciples asked Jesus these three questions: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” This is so important that we repeat:

1) They wanted to know when the temple would be left desolate.

2) They wanted to know what would be the sign of His coming.

3) They wanted to know what would be the sign that the age was coming to an end. (The Greek text sets forth the fact that it is the age and not the world, as such, of which He speaks.)

These three questions concerned the disciples in the day of our Lord. These three questions concerned the Lord when He was here on the earth. These three questions should concern all students of the Word of God today. The Lord spoke more about His second advent than His first; the prophets spoke more of His second advent than of His first; and we should have more than a passing interest in His second advent. The plea that the study of the second coming of Christ gives people the wrong perspective is ill-founded, for there is no Scriptural truth that is not invariably placed in the wrong perspective by some of its adherents. The first advent had no significance apart from the second. Our redemption is incomplete until Christ returns. Christ’s ministry is incomplete until He returns, and all Scriptural truth is rendered outof focus without a clear-cut conception of Christ’s second advent. It is important to know about the coming of the Lord to this earth. Now let us take up the questions in their order:

“Tell us, when shall these things be?” (That is, when is our house going to be left desolate?) In Luke 21:20, 21, we have these verses: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 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 thereinto.”

The sign of the approaching desolation was that Jerusalem would be encompassed with armies; and since there is no specific number as to which siege was meant, it follows of necessity that it must be the first one after the uttering of these words. The next time an army moved down against Jerusalem and surrounded it, then the disciples and the inhabitants were to know that the desolation of the city was in the offing. They were to know also that its desolation was as certain as the Word of God. The exhortation was given by the Lord that when the city was encompassed with armies then those in the city were to flee to the mountains, and those outside the city were not to enter therein. This would be a rather difficult thing to do with the city in a state of siege. But wait and see how the Lord fulfilled His Word. There is a space of approximately 40 years between the time that the Lord uttered these words and the time of the desolation — 40 years during which the Jews had opportunity to repent as a nation and see the fulfillment of Acts 3:19. Three decades passed and there was no evidence of armies or a siege against Jerusalem; but in October of 66 A.D. Cestius Gallus and his Roman legions came against the city and threw up a siege that virtually paralyzed it. Our Lord had said that this would be the sign of the approaching desolation of the house of Israel.

 One cannot help but wonder how many people recognized it as the sign. Subsequent events prove that the first generation of Christians believed far more in the signs of the times than our present generation of believers. Of course those in the city could not flee to the mountains as the Lord had urged; neither could those outside enter in. But wait! About a month later, in November of the same year, for no visible or understandable reason, Gallus and his legions withdrew and left that part of the country. The disciples and believers within the city then fled to the mountains. Josephus, in his Antiquity of the Jews, tells us that so far as the record goes, there was not a single Christian who perished in the fall of Jerusalem some four years later. They believed the word of the Lord and accepted that first siege as the sign; and as opportunity presented itself, they fled.

It is doubtful that many inhabitants of the city, hearing again of the Lord’s prophecy, attached any importance to it but reckoned it as a mere coincidence. But in the year 70 A.D., the Emperor Titus threw up a siege against the city and ultimately reduced it to shambles, slaying two or three million Jews who were in the city at the time. So great was the blood shed that Josephus speaks of whole houses on fire in the southern part of the city being extinguished by the wall of human blood that flowed down into that area. Tradition has it that between the stones of the building was gold leaf which had been placed there to enhance the beauty of the temple. Its dome also was of solid gold, and the Roman’s need for gold caused them to remove each stone separately and scrape the gold from it, leaving no stone upon another when they had finished. The prophecies of the Lord were fulfilled in minutest detail concerning the desolation of the house of Israel. If the Lord went to such pains to prophesy and fulfill the destruction of Jerusalem, who can say that the prophecies pertaining to His second coming are not as valid and worthy of study? The second question of Matthew 24:3 was, “…and what shall be the sign of thy coming?” This question is answered in the immediate context when Jesus says, “Take heed that no man deceive you.”

 There has been much deception pertaining to the coming of the Lord — all of which originated with Satan. He has sought to bring the doctrine of the coming of the Lord into disrepute by mishandling and perversions on the part of sincere but misled folks. Some of them deceive by saying that His coming is already past; others by saying that the destruction of Jerusalem was His second coming; others say that the conversion of an individual is the second coming; others, that the advent of the Holy Spirit was the second coming; others say that the death of a Christian is the second coming; others, that His coming is spiritual and not literal; and still others deceive by saying that He is not coming back at all. One can readily see the need of the exhortation of our Lord when He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” The Lord also warns against deception in Matt. 24:5 when He says, “Many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” False Christs were in evidence during the Lord’s time on earth and also during the time of the apostles. John the beloved says in I John 2:18, “Even now are there many antichrists. “From the time of Christ until now many have claimed to be the Christ. A couple whom we sent to India as missionaries reported that there were some 14 or 15 natives of India who said they were Christ, claiming to have died and risen again from the dead. Our missionary in Miami Beach, attended a meeting where she was introduced to a man from the Middle East who claimed to be the resurrected Christ. She asked to see his hands, and when they revealed no nail prints, she asked him, “Where are the wounds?” Of course he was a false Christ, as are all the others. Our Lord Jesus Christ is in heaven and has been there since His ascension. He will not return to the earth until after He has appeared in the air and called His own to meet Him there (I Thess. 4:13-18).

 All these false Christs make their appearances with the preaching of a false gospel. In the preaching of a false gospel we do not mean that all their preaching is false; but error is mixed with the truth in such a subtle way that few can distinguish between truth and error. The one true test is the Word of God. We have the simple statement in Isaiah 8:20 that if they speak not according to the law and to the testimony “it is because there is no light in them.”

The best antidote in this time of deception is a thorough knowledge of the Word of God.

THEN SHALL THE END COME

March 23, 2010

Matthew 24:14 emphasizes the fact that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world before the end comes. The average missionary expositor of this text uses the wordend as if it were synonymous with the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit has used two different Greek words for end. The one used in Matthew 24:14 is telos, which means the complete final consumative end of all things. The other word is sunteleios found in Matthew 24:3, which means the gathering together of certain necessary accomplishments for the closing of a particular age or dispensation. In Matthew 24:3, the disciples were asking what would be the sign of the end of the age, meaning the gathering of the attendant circumstances which would mark the end of the age of grace. In Matthew 24:14, Jesus called attention to the fact that before the final end of all things, which of necessity would be long after the end of the age just referred to, that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations.

I think it worthwhile to note that this statement of our Lord is not as the missionary preacher expresses it — That the Gospel MUST be preached before the Lord comes — but rather it is a simple prophecy that the gospel of the kingdom WILL be preached before the ultimate end.

Now let us turn to I Cor. 15, where the Spirit uses the word telos (final end of all things) in connection with attendant events. Notice verses 22 through 28: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits: afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father: when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

In verse 24, it says, “Then cometh the end, when…”  This word when has the exact meaning of the word after, and I note that the end does not come until He shall have delivered up the kingdom, even to God the Father, and that does not occur until He shall put down all rule and all authority and power. That does not occur until after His reign of one thousand years (Rev. 20:6); and not until then is the last enemy destroyed, which is death. Not until then does the Son become subject unto Him that put all things under Him that God may be all in all.

Now permit me to sum this up in one sentence if possible. The end of Matthew 24:14 does not come until Christ has returned, reigned one thousand years, put all enemies in subjection under His feet, including death, and then shall have delivered all unto the Father. May I emphasize very strongly that the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world before that end comes. In the meantime, we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel of grace to every creature in obedience to the command of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But please don’t be guilty of trying to make the Lord’s return dependent upon the success of man’s missionary program. The time of our Lord’s return has been set by God, as we read in Acts. 15:14 and Romans 11:25. When the elect out of the Gentiles have been gathered in and united with the remnant of Israel according to the election of grace to form the Body of Christ, then our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will return.

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 question which 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 and 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 fact 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 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” (Luke 21:28).

“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 to 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 to sell all and give to the poor (I Tim. 6:17-19). Notice in this connection that “The living God giveth us richly all things to enjoy” instead of requiring the oath of poverty.

Under the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, the Lord says in Matt. 6:31-34a, “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need for all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow.” But under the gospel of grace, Paul says that the minister of spiritual things is to share in the material things of those who are free to engage in business. He further states that the minister of the gospel is to live by the gospel just as the priest of the temple lived on the things of the temple. That is a definite expression of the Spirit of God for a stated salary and expenses for ministers (I Cor. 9:11, 13, 14).

Under the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, the poor were supplied out of the common treasury (Acts 2:44, 45; 4:34, 35). But under the preaching of the gospel of grace, a man was to provide for his own (I Tim. 5:8). Also, in II Thess. 3:10-12, a man was forbidden to eat unless he did work, with further exhortation that he must work and eat of his own bread.

Under the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, they were forbidden to take an oath in the courts of the land (Matt. 5:34-37). But under the gospel of grace, they were commanded to be in subjection to civil authorities and honor all the laws of the land (Rom. 13:1-5).

Under the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom, the ministry was accompanied by signs, wonders, and miracles which served to authenticate the messengers and their words (Mark 16:16-20). The preaching of the gospel of grace was to be under the power of the Spirit of God with the Word being illuminated by the Spirit, and it was to be accepted because it was from God. Strange as it may seem, many people do not distinguish between the everlasting gospel of Rev. 14:6, and the gospel of grace. A careful reading of Rev. 14:6, will reveal that the everlasting gospel is not preached until near the close of the tribulation; and it announces the JUDGMENTS of the everlasting God who was before all creation and who is after all creation, who has neither beginning nor ending, and it is therefore called the Everlasting Gospel.

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 world-wide war He had in mind; but He did not, and it can be no war 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 worldwide 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, because he gave us the Messiah after the flesh.

Third, because 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 it yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know 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” (vv. 32- 34).

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.

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 itrefers 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 had been 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 12x20x40 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)? 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 after the 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. arrived 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 encompassing 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 had been placed 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.

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

March 18, 2010

“O, ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matt. 16:3b; cf. vv. 1-3a).

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 amplewarning 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 judgments 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 every one 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: 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, herod 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, accompanied 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 sceptre from 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 sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor 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 sceptre had departed from Judah the Messiah would be on the earth. The sceptre 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 SCEPTRE 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 sceptre 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.