God and Reason—Part 4

Signs of the Approaching End

SINCE the Scriptures so clearly show that the end of the world does not mean the destruction of the literal earth, but merely the end of the present era of sin, selfishness, and death, any evidences, prophetic or otherwise, which indicate the imminence of the new order of things should be hailed as good news.

The fact that, in the past, earnest but ill-advised religionists have prematurely announced the coming of the Lord, and have grossly misunderstood both the manner and the purpose of his coming, should not deter us now from examining the prophecies which have a bearing on this important subject. Indeed, we should be close students of biblical prophecies, that we might, if possible, ascertain just where we are on the stream of time; and especially what the prophets have predicted for our day. If we find that the Bible accurately describes both past and present world events, it will be another good reason why we should have confidence in its message concerning the future.

While Jesus was still on the earth, his disciples asked him what would be the sign of his second coming, and of the end of the world, or age. In reply, he gave a number of very definite signs by which his followers would be able to identify the closing days of this present evil world. One of these signs pertained to the natural seed of Abraham—the Jewish nation. The Master said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” He evidently used the capital city of Israel—Jerusalem—as representing the entire nation, and meant that Gentile governments of the earth would continue to hold subjective control over the people as well as over the land of Palestine itself for a definite period of time, which he here refers to as the times of the Gentiles.—Luke 21:24

The subjection of the Jews to Gentile rule began more than six centuries before Jesus’ first advent, at the time when Nebuchadnezzar took the nation captive to Babylon—606 B.C., to be exact. In the second chapter of Daniel’s prophecy there is an account of some of the circumstances surrounding the beginning of this period of Gentile supremacy. Nebuchadnezzar was on the throne of Babylon at the time, and the Lord used a very dramatic way to indicate that with him began the period referred to by Jesus as the times of the Gentiles.

Four Gentile World Powers Foretold

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which, upon awakening, he could not remember. He was induced to send for Daniel, a Jewish captive, who was able not only to remind the king of his dream, but also to give him its interpretation. Daniel explained that in the dream the king had seen an image like unto a man. This image had a head of gold, breast of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet and toes of iron mingled with clay.

As the dream progressed, the king saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands; and this stone smote the image on its feet, causing it to fall. After the image fell it was ground to powder, and the wind blew it away as the chaff from a summer threshing-floor. Then the stone that smote the image began to grow, and it continued growing until it became a great mountain that filled the whole earth.—Dan. 2:36-45

Daniel’s interpretation of this curious dream is one of the most remarkable in the entire Bible, in that it gives an accurate preview of Gentile history, beginning with Babylonian supremacy down through the centuries, even to the present day. In this divine interpretation, the prophet identifies the Babylonian Empire as being pictured by the head of gold. To the king of Babylon, Daniel said, “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.”—Dan. 2:37,38

Prior to this, God had favored and recognized none but the Jewish nation. But now the Jews had been made subjects of Babylon, and the king of Babylon was recognized by God as the first of that long line of Gentile rulers who, with divine sanction, were to hold the Jews under their control as a subject people for a long period of time. This, then was the beginning of the times of the Gentiles.

But Daniel did not close his prophecy with his identification of Babylon as the head of gold. He continued, telling Nebuchadnezzar that with the downfall of his kingdom there would arise another, a twofold empire, represented by the two arms of silver. This proved to be the Medo-Persian Empire, which conquered Babylon a few years later. Daniel also told of a third empire, represented by the belly and thighs of brass. This kingdom, as history shows, was Greece, which succeeded Medo-Persia as a world power of outstanding recognition.

And Daniel did not stop there. He went on, and foretold the rise of the great military (iron) power of Rome—even calling attention to its two parts, Eastern and Western, with capitals at Rome and Constantinople, as represented in the two legs of iron. Truly Rome was an iron kingdom!

And in his foretelling of the successive world powers that would come and go before the old world ends, Daniel stopped at just the right place—he mentions only four. He did not go on to describe a fifth universal Gentile world power. Daniel here accurately portrayed history for more than two thousand years in advance!

The reliability of any historian depends on his accuracy; and Daniel was accurate, even thou recording history in advance. Hence we can have confidence in him, even as did Jesus, who quoted him in Matthew 24. It is this same dependable Prophet Daniel who describes events of our day, of which we shall note more as we proceed. If by divine providence Daniel was able to foresee and predict accurately more than two thousand years of the world’s most important events, it would seem that we should trust him in respect to the few things which he says are still future.

But, to return to the interpretation of the image, when the Roman Empire began to wane, there was no other power capable of stepping in and taking its place as dictator of the world. Rome began, rather, to split up into smaller states or kingdoms. Thus, the feet and the toes of the image, with the disintegrating influence of clay mixed with iron, aptly represent what actually happened following the heyday of Rome’s military supremacy.

Then the prophet continues, telling us that the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which smote the image upon its feet and then grew until it became a great mountain that filled the whole earth, represents the power and authority of God, which: one, brings to an end the lease of power given to those Gentile nations who ruled over Israel; and secondly, represents the near-establishment of a new kingdom “in the days of these kings”—the feet and toe kingdoms of the image. He also assures us that this new kingdom which is to be set up by the God of heaven shall “break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”—Dan. 2:44

Now we have the whole prophetic vision before us, showing the successive empires of Gentile supremacy over Israel, beginning with Babylon and continuing down through the centuries to the collapse of Rome as a universal empire, and finally to the breaking up of every vestige of Gentile rule by setting up the kingdom of God on the earth.

In the Lord’s warning to Israel of a “seven times” period of punishment, we have a clue as to how long the Gentile times were to be. (Lev. 26:18,21,24,28) Most students of biblical time prophecies agree that a time, or year, in symbolic language means 360 literal years, and that the seven times of the Gentile supremacy over Israel represented 2,520 years. Beginning in 606 B.C., this period would end in A.D. 1914.

We should remember, however, that biblical time prophecies merely point out important landmarks or turning points in the affairs of nations, and then only in so far as those affairs relate to the plan of God. The end of the times of the Gentiles, in A. D. 1914, was the turning point between the old and the new world—when the old world would begin to die, clearing the way for the new. But we should not expect too much to happen all at once, although tremendous changes already are apparent in the world’s national and political setup.

World Changes in Progress

Jesus said, as already noted, that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) Thus we should expect that when the end of this period was reached there would be something to indicate a change in Israel’s status among the Gentile powers. And there was. As a direct result of the First World War which began in 1914, the Jews of the world were no longer officially without recognition, and were permitted to return to Palestine to rebuild their national homeland. And now the new State of Israel is officially recognized as a nation among nations.

True, in recent years the Jews experienced an increased measure of persecution, and had their privileges in Palestine somewhat curtailed; but these experiences were also in harmony with the prophecies concerning the period in which divine favor was to be manifested toward them. God’s prophet foretold that hunters would be sent to drive the Jew back to his own land. (Jer. 16:16) Also, that finally God would need to intervene on their behalf in order to protect them from their enemies even after they had been established in the Holy Land.—Jer. 30:3,5,11

So outstanding have been the many changes that have occurred the world over since the end of the Gentile times in 1914 that it is not uncommon even for noted statesmen and writers to refer to the prewar days as the old order, and to speak of the present era as a transitional period leading into a new order. Inasmuch as the end of the age does not mean the burning up of the literal earth, we are able to see that the signs pertaining thereto do not need to be interpreted in such a way as to make them all terminate in a single day. We can see, then, that the old world is already ending, and that already there are evidences that the new age is near.

This incoming new order is what the Bible describes as the kingdom of Christ, or the kingdom of God—the divine ruler-ship that is to supplant the present imperfect governments of earth. The Bible gives many titles to the new King of earth, and one of them is Michael—meaning ‘who as God’. This title indicates that the new king will represent God, the Creator. Indeed, the prophet declares that “the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom.” (Dan. 2:44) True, this new kingdom will be for the people, but it will represent God, the Creator, and will function by divine authority and power, enforcing his laws. The people will not be asked to vote for it, nor will its establishment and success depend upon human wisdom and ability.

It is this Michael, the Messiah and representative of Jehovah, who is referred to in that wonderfully accurate prophecy of Daniel, chapter twelve. There we are informed of a time when Michael shall stand up to assume control of earth’s affairs, and the prophet indicates that the first results of this will be “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” And who will say that we are not even now going through at least a part of this trouble? Jesus, in Luke 21:26, cited this prophecy of Daniel twelve, and explained that because of this foretold time of trouble, men’s hearts will fail them for fear, as they look forward to coming events.

The Apostle Paul gives us further valuable information concerning the present development of world events, particularly in respect to this destructive trouble which is already afflicting the world. First he mentions the times and seasons, and the fact that while the world would not be aware of the true significance of the times in which they were living, yet the brethren of Christ would know perfectly. He points out that when the wise men of the world would be saying, “Peace and safety; then sudden destruction” would come upon them, “as travail upon a woman with child.”—I Thess. 5:1-4

Everyone knows that the general agitation for peace among the nations and people of the earth, looking toward the outlawing of war, began in a marked way in the early twentieth century. Yes, peace societies and peace conferences are strictly modern movements. Such efforts were almost unknown to prior generations. Was it just a chance happening that, coincident with all these great efforts toward peace, the most devastating war of all history should suddenly be precipitated? Is not this in marked fulfillment of Paul’s prediction of sudden destruction that was to come as the nations began to agitate for peace?

Spasms of Trouble Fulfill Prophecy

But notice the manner in which this destructive trouble was to come upon the old order of things: it was to be like travail upon a woman with child. Every mother knows what that means. Travail comes in spasms, with periods of easement in between. The successive periods of easement usually grow shorter, and the spasms of pain more severe, until the birth of the child takes place. And thus far this great time of trouble, which is to terminate in the birth of the new order, is developing exactly according to this biblical picture of travail.

The First World War

First, and exactly at the end of the times of the Gentiles, came the First World War, with all its horrible suffering and weakening effect upon civilization. The war ended, but the effects remained. It was supposed to be a war to end wars, but from the time the armistice was signed the nations began to prepare for another war, and finally in 1939 it broke out.

The war of 1914 was to make the world safe for democracy, but as an aftermath of the war dictatorships were set up which bankrupted the nations, but at the same time made thousands of millionaires, who, in fulfillment of another prophecy, have heaped together treasures for the last days. Indeed, it was a real spasm, beginning suddenly and ending suddenly—and it was worldwide. When it ended, the world was happy, insanely happy, for at least a day, not realizing that war was but the first of a series of spasms that were destined to come for the purpose of bringing to birth an entirely new social order.

Easement, and Further Spasms

Then began the easement. Prosperity loomed, and everyone began talking about getting back to normalcy. Yes, the period of easement was on; the poor world’s pulse seemed normal, at least the prosperous political physicians claimed that it was, and they boastfully announced that the patient had fully recovered under their skillful treatment. Alas, how shortsighted is human wisdom! These physicians did not understand that this is a case of travail preceding a new birth. They did not know that the Gentile times had ended, and that all the kings of earth have had their day—so they looked forward with hope to a perpetuation of the old order.

Then suddenly and without warning, in the fall of 1929, came the beginning of the second major spasm—and like the first one it, too, was worldwide. Stocks everywhere tumbled in a day, and kept on falling. Banks failed, and businesses went bankrupt. Turning from the hazardous stock market, many entrusted their money to the banks for safekeeping, only to find that the banks were eventually forced to close their doors. Some who did not trust the banks bought gold and stored it away in vaults, or elsewhere, only to have it finally taken away from them as an emergency measure. Thousands of factories closed; millions of men and women lost their jobs; long breadlines formed in nearly every city. Thus the poor world began to realize that it was in the throes of a depression that meant even more suffering than the first spasm had entailed, severe though it was.

Other Spasms

The depression spasm affected the entire world, and society’s physicians went to work on the patient again. Many remedies were tried, and in nearly every instance improvement was reported. Indeed, in America it was claimed that the depression was ended, yet the tragic fact remained that there were still ten millions or more men and women out of work just prior to the time when the all-out defense program was inaugurated.

But true to the illustration of travail, the periods of easement seemed to grow shorter and shorter, so that before we were scarcely out of the depression, another and even more ghastly war came upon the nations—a revolutionary war—a struggle between dictatorship and democracy, with both sides pressing the bloody struggle through to the bitter end. Fascist and Nazi dictatorships were destroyed; but now the human race was threatened with nuclear bombs.

The argument is frequently advanced by those who have little or no faith in the prophecies of the Bible, that these events which students of the Bible refer to as signs of the approaching end, are merely a matter of history repeating itself. But let the reader take note that nearly all the points thus far considered involve unusual happenings in world affairs such as heretofore have been unknown in all the annals of human history. This is especially true of the next prophetic evidence to be considered.

Increase of Knowledge

In the same twelfth chapter of the prophecy of Daniel wherein the prophet tells of the present time of trouble that is daily becoming more severe, he gives us some further valuable and striking information concerning these last days in which we are living. Daniel designates this same period as the time of the end.

It is clear now that when Daniel here speaks of the time of the end he has reference, not to the approaching destruction of the earth, but to the end of Gentile supremacy over Israel. Concerning this period the prophet says, “In the time of the end many shall run to and fro [on the earth], and knowledge shall be increased.” Simple words, these, but deep in meaning! It has been only within the lifetime of this present generation that people have really started running to and fro. We are now a world of travelers! And why? Because suddenly there has come an unprecedented increase of knowledge, which has made possible the inventions of new modes of travel, just as the prophet predicted.

Sir Isaac Newton, noted philosopher of the eighteenth century, who was also a believer in the Bible, studied this prophecy of Daniel, and upon the basis of it he concluded that the time would come when people would travel as fast as fifty miles an hour. Voltaire, the noted French infidel, made a great deal of sport of the mighty Newton for being so foolish as to make a rash prediction of this kind, and especially for using the Bible to prove it. It would be interesting to know what Voltaire would say were he to be awakened from the sleep of death now!

Today, those who travel on the highways no faster than fifty miles an hour are usually in the way of ordinary traffic, while six hundred miles an hour is a modest speed for an airplane. Those who now hold views similar to Voltaire’s as to the absurdity of Bible prophecies, and who are alive today to see their fulfillment, might find it profitable to stop and calmly think the matter over. The younger members of the present generation are inclined to forget that all our wonderful blessings of invention and travel are peculiar to this generation. Our grandparents knew little or nothing about them. In the early days of railroading many otherwise intelligent persons claimed that the railroads were inventions of the devil, to carry immortal souls to hell.

If even a college professor of one hundred years ago had said that the time would come when we could sit in our homes and converse with people across the seas, or around the world, without as much as a wire or other visible connections, his friends would have said, “Poor man, it’s too bad that he studied so hard.” But here we are today, accepting these miracles as commonplace, not realizing that they have come in fulfillment of divine prophecy.

A hundred and fifty years ago, or thereabouts, it was not unusual for members of Parliament in Great Britain to be unable to sign their own names to important documents. What would we think of a ten-year-old child today who could not read or write? And, remember, all this increase of knowledge was prophesied to come in the time of the end.—Dan. 12:4

The Gathering of the Nations

Let us consider still another prophecy that has had a very close bearing on the times in which we are living, indicating that we are indeed witnessing the closing scenes of the world’s nighttime of sorrow and death. The prophecy reads: “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy.”—Zeph. 3:8,9

The point in this prophecy which reveals the time of its fulfillment is its reference to the gathering of the nations. Everyone knows that it has been only the last few decades that invention and progress have brought all the nations of the earth together in such a way that now none of them can exist in entire isolation from the others. First came the League of Nations. Then there was that conference of sixty-six nations, held in England in 1933. Though abortive in its objective, it nevertheless served as a good illustration of how the present family of nations actually has been gathered into a compact interdependent group during the time of the end.

That London Conference was arranged in acknowledgment of the fact that unless the nations could agree on some unified economic and monetary policy, the whole structure of civilization was likely to crumble. But alas, no real agreement was reached at the conference; with the result that after that there was the mad rearmament race among the nations, which led in 1939 to another global war. Then came the most impressive gathering of the nations in all history, when they assembled in San Francisco to frame a new order of peace—The United Nations.

Yes, Zephaniah predicted the utter failure of all these get-together efforts of the nations in these last days; and the reason he assigns for such failure is that the time has now come for God to express his righteous indignation against a selfish and corrupted society, a world that has perfunctorily professed his name, but has deliberately disobeyed his laws.

The prophet declares that God’s vengeance will be expressed in such a manner that the whole earth will be devoured by the fire of his jealousy. If the earth could be devoured by a wild beast, as previously noted, it also could be devoured by the fire of God’s jealousy, the language being symbolic in each case, with no reference to a literal earth, a literal beast, or a literal fire.

The symbolism of fire is very enlightening. Here it indicates the utter destruction of the present order of selfishness, following which will come the administration of the kingdom of Christ, that through it the people may have an opportunity to return to the worship and service of the true God.

That Zephaniah’s prophecy has no reference to the destruction of the literal earth, nor of all the people upon the earth, is clearly shown, “For then [after the fire] will I turn to the people a pure language [truth], that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.” (Zeph. 3:9) From this it is evident that the people will not be burned up, but will have an opportunity to return to God to serve him after the symbolic earth is devoured by the fire of God’s jealous indignation—the great time of trouble.

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