“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near"(Luke 21:28).
We studied Jesus' second coming in the previous chapter. We learned how and why He will return. In this chapter, we are going to study when He is planning to return. In the Bible it is recorded, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father"(Matthew 24:36). Why didn't God reveal the date of His coming? This may be because God always wants us to be prepared. Even though He did not tell us the exact time, He has prophesied that He's coming soon.
Jerusalem was once the capital of Judea, and it was also a political religious center. In Jerusalem, there once stood a temple, and when Jesus lived on the earth, it was where people came to worship. This temple was built by thousands of people for more than 40 years. It was said to be made of marble, 21.2 meters long, 10.6 meters wide, and 15.9 meters high. God foresaw the destruction of this temple and wept, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left desolate"(Matthew 23:37,38). When the disciples heard this, they pointed at the temple and asked Him what He meant, and Jesus answered, "Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down"(Matthew 24: 2). When the disciples heard this they were shocked. They weren't able to imagine the temple being in ruins, and if that did happen they thought it would happen in the end of the world and they asked Jesus, "Tell us, when will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"(Matthew 24:3). Jesus answered them concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, "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 if fulfillment of all that has been written... 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"(Luke21:20-22, 24). The Word is so clear that it needs no explanation. It clearly warned them to flee when armies surrounded Jerusalem. Was this true? A famous English philosopher named Dr. Samuel Clark (1675-1725) recorded "In the 12th year of the reign of Nero, Cestius Gallus, invaded Jerusalem with many troops." Josephus(37-97), a historian living in Jerusalem of the time recorded, When Cestius surrounded Jerusalem and was ready and prepared to take over Jerusalem, he retreated without no reason. This happened in 66 A.D. and it was really hard to understand. Anyhow, all the Christians in Jerusalem took advantage of this chance and fled from the city. In 70 A.D. the Roman general, Titus surrounded Jerusalem and attacked it. In this invasion, 1 million Jews were slaughtered, and died of starvation and infection and not one stone of the temple remained on top of another. Dr. Clark wrote that it is quite surprising that no Christian was killed in the war. From this we can learn the importance of studying the Bible and its prophecy.
1. The sun will be darkened.
Jesus continued to tell his disciples regarding their questions about the end of this world as following:
"For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now-and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 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"(Matthew 24:21,22,29).
A very strange event occurred around New England in America on May 19, 1780. Suddenly the sun got dark during the day. The Webster Dictionary published in 1869 explained this event as follows, describing that day as the dark day.
"In some place, residents who were outside couldn't read any prints. After having sung their night songs, birds soon disappeared and got quiet. Hens went to roost and livestock began to look for barns. People rekindled candles. The darkness started from about 10 a.m. and kept going on until that night. No one knew the reason why this had occurred." According to a record, the front surface of the moon became red like blood that night. People were so afraid that they tended to feel it was the end of this world at last. By the way, according to the Bible "after the great distress, immediately, the sun will be darkened," The great distress could apply to Christians who live on the basis of faith in Jesus, having been from 538 to 1798, for 1260 years.(Reference section: Daniel 7:25, Revelation 12:6, 14) But Jesus said, "those days will be shortened," according to history, freedom of Religion was given to the public about the middle of 18th century. His words were proven true and the dark day actually occurred in 1780 after the Persecution ceased. This showed the prophesies in the Bible are true.
2. The stars will fall from the sky
Another sign after the dark day is "the stars will fall from the sky". According to Revelation in the Bible, "and the stars in the sky fell to the earth as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind"(Revelation 6:13).
This prophecy was fulfilled on November 13, 1833. Omsthet, a professor of Yale University, wrote this happening in the name of shooting stars in the American encyclopedia, "Those who could see the shooting stars on the morning of November 13. 1833 saw the most surprising shooting stars since the dawn of history. And the scene could be seen all over North America. Those who saw this magnificent scene compared these shooting stars to snow flakes or rainbow drops."
Charles Young wrote his opinion about this scene in his book 'Manual of Astronomy," Of all the rains of shooting stars on the earth, there has never been a wonderful star show like this. It kept going for about 5 or 6 hours, and they could imagine that they counted about 2 billion shooting stars." Since the beginning of history, the shower of stars is surely one of the signs of Jesus' second coming. In this way, God shows us that this world is going to end.
The most tangible feature of this age is increasing knowledge. The Bible indicates that this is one of the signs of Jesus' soon second coming.
In the Bible, Daniel said, "But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the end time. Many will go here and there and increase their knowledge"(Daniel 12:4).
The prophecies of Daniel in the Bible hadn't been understood up to recently as well as this one. But people could solve the keys of those prophecies in the 19th century. As a result, knowledge of the Bible has rapidly increased. In addition, knowledge of Science has also developed; we are now in the atomic and cosmic age. All things that we are using very conveniently today were hardly invented before the 18th century. We can also travel in space thanks to the advance of technology, but the one fact that scares us is that morality and courtesy can't catch up with the advance of technology. Whenever we think about nuclear power and space rockets, we might also think about nuclear weapons and are scared of the result of the misuse of these things.
Then, what does the Bible predict about wars?
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars"(Matthew 24:6).
In the end time of the world, we'll be able to hear of rumors of wars more than ever. B.A. Sorokin, a professor of Harvard University presented some very interesting statistics about wars.
According to his study, 902 wars and 1615 civil wars had occurred in the past 2500 years. Since the 20th century, the number of wars and civil wars is 8 times as much as before. Today, the scale of wars is inclined to be larger and larger while the number of wars is increasing. Jesus predicted, "Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world"(Luke 21:26). This word expresses very well the fear of nuclear weapons that people have today.
Amid fear of nuclear weapons, peace movements have spread. Regarding peace movement, we can't help thinking about the armament reduction conference after World War II. At that time, 58 countries took part in this conference and the number of each country's representatives was about 2,500. But because there were no good results, World War II broke out. Since World War II, through the United Nations, the International Security Council was organized. Conferences for armament reduction have been held from time to time. But we know they haven't gotten good results until now.
Religion is going to be the last step to make this world peaceful, eventually. Then, the religion will have the most important role making it happen. All religions in this world will push for the union of religions. They will propose taking steps to keep in step with the peace movement.
Isaiah predicted this situation, "In the last days, many people will come and say. Come; let us go up to the mountains of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning books. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more. (Isaiah 2:2-4) But Paul said, "While people are saying 'peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape"(1 Thessalonians 5:3). In other words, both the peace movement and the movement of union of religions are going to be the last efforts of human beings. When we think the world is peaceful, destruction will come suddenly, and quietly.
Those who haven't been taught by the Holy Spirit can't know these movements had the secret of Satan who wanted to destroy this world and "those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus"(Revelation 12:17) Therefore, we as Christians who live in this age must receive the true light of prophecy.
"Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places"(Matthew 24:7).
Though there have always been many conflicts, and power games among nations, nations will rise. This is regarded as another sign of the end of the world.
Joel predicted, "Let the weakling say, I'm strong"(Joel 3:10).
Since World War II ended in August 1945, many small and weak countries declared their independence. From the start of Indonesia's Independence, they said, "We are independent, each country is independent. One doesn't belong to another." Isn't the prophecy really true that "each of them says he's strong"?
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them"(2 Timothy 3:1-5).
These words are talking about how godless people will be in the last days. Jesus also said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man"(Matthew 24:37-39).
A flood once destroyed the world about 4,300 years ago. "Then God saw how great man's weakness on the earth had become.... and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said I'll wipe mankind, whom I created from the face of the earth"(Genesis 6:5-7).
Those days, people were so degenerate and corrupted, they threw away justice. That's why God couldn't leave them alone. Jesus said the situation in the last days is the same as in the days of Noah.
Today, we know that we are in the same trouble. This world is filled with corruption. Prodigality prevails in this age. These days, teenagers disregard sex principles and live immoral lives. As a result, they are destroying both their bodies and spirits. Values of morality have dropped more rapidly than ever before. Sexual immorality fills this world to the brim. People are so selfish and cold that they even break their own families so easily; people even tend to look down on and despise God. We can know from these things that the most serious crisis is coming and this world is coming to its end.
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19,20)
According to this command, the good news of the kingdom has surprisingly spread.
First of all, in Bible terms. In olden days, people regarded the Bible as a very valuable book, because they had to copy each Bible by hand. Today, thanks to development of the printing press, we can get the Bible easily.
The United Kingdom Bible Society was organized in 1804 and the United States Bible Society was organized in 1816.
They have distributed the Bible all over the world, which was translated into more than 1,431 languages and dialects. This has lead many into a better understanding of the Holy Spirit and a full knowledge of Jesus Christ. In addition to that, in terms of activities of Seventh Day Adventist church which has proclaimed Jesus' second coming, has spread the good news into 197 countries in the world, though it was organized only 100 years ago. The Seventh Day Adventist church is taking advantage of very various kinds of methods to preach the good news of Heaven; by word of mouth, communication, radio, TV, etc. "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"(Matthew 24:14). The rapidly spreading of the good news is the most tangible sign of Jesus' second coming. Jesus also said natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes, tidal waves, storms, famines, epidemics etc. are all signs. Today, these things happen more and more. Each of them is warning us that the end of this world is very near and we should repent of our sins and be alert.
"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- so you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him"(Matthew 24:32, 33, 44).