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4-2  Jesus Gave Us the Signs of the Times


Section B (continued) The Almond Tree - The Gentiles


4.  Diseases: "There will be terrible ... plagues everywhere ..." Luke 21:11 (TEV).

In the battle against disease, we consider we've done well, and it's true. Great progress has been made: smallpox, TB, malaria, and other age-old enemies have been routed. Wonderful achievements.

Is the battle won then? Is this Prophecy untrue? Or is heart disease not a modern "plague"? It's responsible for 30% of all mortalities in the OECD countries(7-2). And now AIDS is here - horrible AIDS - a disease that perhaps many people sense we need God's AID if we are to grapple with and defeat it.

Let us recall again that WWII ended when the West dropped two atom bombs on Japan; these afflicted the survivors with radiation sickness, including cancers. One key to the Prophecy above has been given to us by the grievous state of the bombs' victims. They help us to see that the nuclear holocaust would be the ultimate fulfillment of Jesus' warning about "terrible ... plagues everywhere."

Earthquakes, Famines and Diseases (our last three headings), are all ongoing causes of mortality. In the last 100 years, all have added further tragedies to the tragedy of war. Perhaps God is leading us up to the point where we know that war must be done away with? Can we say, "There is enough death, without war?" Given the courage always to shun war and to preserve life instead, wouldn't we be blessed?

^  5.  Heart Failure: And there shall be ... upon the earth distress of nations ... Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth ... Luke 21:25-26 (KJV).

Jesus gives us a lot of Guidance in this verse. Not only does He point out that there will be "failing" hearts in the End-Time, He also tells us something about the cause.

Many people are recognizing that the way we live today is less than ideal. Crammed together in big cities or involved in long commutes, working for societies in which materialism is a key feature - is this what we were created for? We do pay a price for the hectic way in which life is lived these days. We call this price "stress."

One book on stress(8-2) put this as follows:

Stress cannot be avoided. It is inherent in the human condition
and our century has intensified many stresses and added new ones.

Jesus (above) talked about "distress" - it's our stress He was talking about. In a gadget-oriented world, does "looking after ... things" sometimes add to that di-stress? And isn't stress related to fear? When we experience extreme stress, doesn't this feel very like fear? Jesus warned us of a "fear" that leads to "heart failure."

The people in Jesus' audience at the time - were they very concerned about heart problems? Probably not - we see heart attacks today as a scourge of modern society, going along with industrialization, urban living, and a Western diet (a diet of high-sugar, highly-refined and processed food[9]). The difference between - a natural diet and traditional way of life, as against a Western diet and industrial living conditions - is made clear in a 1971 South African study(10). This showed that coronary heart disease (the condition that produces heart attacks), is virtually unknown in rural Africa. And diet, rather than stress, was shown to be the main cause.

The point is further underlined by the fact that people living in the USA are shown to be four times more likely to die of heart disease than are people who live in South Korea(11).

"Hold on now," you may say. "If most heart disease could be due to diet rather than stress, how can heart problems be counted as a Sign of the End-Time? We've been eating this way for a long time, surely?"

Well, no we haven't actually. The switch to a more-attractive-but-less-healthy diet only began toward the end of the 19th century. And in recent decades, high-budget advertising in the media has been responsible for creating a market for ultra-refined foods. So our diet too is a feature of the End-Time.

^  Once again, we see that Jesus gave us true Prophecy. And was He forewarning us about physical heart disease only? Because if we look at the other meaning of "heart" - our spiritual/mental heart - we can readily see that "heart failure" in this sense is an increasing problem today.

Alcohol, tranquilizers, and other drugs are used very often, sad to say, as ways of coping with the effects of stress. Those people whose "hearts" are more seriously affected by the difficulties of modern living need professional help. And it's clear that psychiatrists, psychologists and other workers in this field are fully stretched, meeting these needs.

Most experts point to stress in all its forms as having a great deal to do with reductions in our emotional health. This is the case whether we are talking about a mild effect, where a person simply feels "below par," or a worse condition, where they are habitually depressed, or more severe yet, definite mental illness.

Isn't there also an underlying fear - aren't we "looking after," or looking over our shoulders at, the nuclear danger? The thought of all those nuclear missiles sitting in their silos has provoked so much anxiety. Surely the threat to life on Earth which the nuclear holocaust presents, is the ultimate meaning of this Prophecy?

The point being made then, is that God - through our Savior - looked ahead almost 2,000 years, and warned, "You'll be having problems in this area of the heart." How right He was. Oddly, that's comforting, isn't it?

6.  Unbelief: "And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many," Matthew 24:11 (NAS 1975).

Jesus was the true Prophet Who held up the high and holy standard of God. If people are listening to "false prophets," their belief - either in the true Prophet or in His standard - must have waned.

Is this what has happened? Empty pews in houses of worship say that it has. It seems that we tried to believe, tried God's Way, and found it too hard. Is it because of all that's happened since 1914 that unbelief has set in? Let's recall the scene before 1900 (that is, the Victorian Age in Britain). Though we may not agree with everything those people held to, we have to say that (on both sides of the Atlantic), there were some great believers!

Must it be this way today? After all, for God's standard to work, it must be attainable. Believers can affirm that God empowers them, enabling them to reach their respective goals.

7.  Sin: "And because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold." Matthew 24:12 (NAS 1975).

When we see other people behaving badly, our own desire to lead a good life is reduced. We think, "What's the use? Nobody else cares." And we have an excuse for acting like "they" do. Love doesn't flourish in such an "anything goes" atmosphere.

Does today's scene fit Jesus' Prophecy? Bulging prisons are one indication that it does. Another is the lack of moral restraint - sex before marriage, even sex as a way of life - is now a common thing. This hits at the family and therefore at all of us.

^  Crime and immorality, surely these have a common source - in lives that are spiritually empty. In such a condition, rootless, seeking solace for ourselves, we can wander far from the right path.

Back to the Words of Jesus quoted above. If we're looking at other people only, and taking their idea of what is o.k. as our goal, we'll always finish up giving less love than we might have given. But God showed us a better Standard - by way of the Lamb of God.

8.  Rejection of Christ and Christians: "But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation." Luke 17:25 (NAS 1975).

Jesus knew He would suffer on the Cross and said so, in other Scriptures. However, this Prophecy is set in the context of the End-Time, and so we can gather that He was also predicting mass rejection of Himself by the End-Time generation.

There is also a hint as to why the rejection: Jesus can look weak to us today in that He did submit meekly to the Cross. As a competitive species we shun weakness. (Love often looks weak, though it's not - it can be the toughest thing in the world.)

And so Jesus' Values are rejected. His Principle of Give is not in harmony with the worldly idea of Get. Nor does His Way of being humble and kind accord with the idea: "Look after No. 1." Obviously, along with the current lack of interest in the Prince of Meekness, goes rejection of the beliefs of His followers.

9.  The Awful Price: "... and the stars will seem to fall from the heavens ..." Matthew 24:29 (TLB).

Our last three headings were: Unbelief, Sin, and Rejection of Christ. If Christ is Real, it sounds like this world is on a hiding to nothing, doesn't it? What will be the outcome?

You maybe saw The Day After, a movie on the nuclear holocaust?(13) There was a scene in which the bombs exploded one after another. They looked just like so many suns (or "stars") coming to Earth. Recalling that the same fusion reaction that powers the Sun has been exploited to produce the terrible force of the H-Bomb, we see that the above Prophecy is chillingly exact.

Warnings about nuclear bombs and what they would do to a rebel world are throughout the Bible. But this doesn't mean that God has long had a plan to kill us off! God is Creator not Destroyer. No, if we continue on down the primrose path, we'll do ourselves in. Sooner or later some fallible human will press the button. Only blind optimism would deny that prospect, surely.

There is one ray of hope. If we put down our "over-indulgent uncle in the sky" image of God, and turn to the Lord Jesus in all humility, then we are safe.

10.  Late recognition of the End-Time: Let's learn some more from these verses - quoted above in Section A (Israel):

"Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door."
Matthew 24:32-33 (NAS 1975)

We saw in Section A of this chapter (1st page) that Israel is the fig tree in this Prophecy. We saw too, that this tree sprouted - became a nation again - in 1948. To be "already tender" and to sprout leaves, the growing process must have been underway, invisibly, for some time.

^  If we go back to 1917, we find evidence of this. Because in that year Jerusalem was freed from the Turks (who had ruled there for four centuries). This event - coupled with the Balfour Declaration of the same year - opened the door to the Jewish hope of a large-scale return to their original Land. Please note this key event took place during WWI - a war itself cited above (this chapter's 1st page) as being a Sign of the End-Time.

In 1970 Hal Lindsey's book The Late Great Planet Earth was published(14). And Christians reading it began to say, "Israel the Fig Tree has sprouted? That's right! It must be the End-Time." Now we see another, delightful, fulfillment of the Prophecy. It was not until the 1970's that people were sure about the identity of the sprouting Fig Tree, yet a major growth step took place in WWI. And Jesus said we would not recognize that the (painful) process of "becoming tender" was underway until much of it was over.

So Winter, and much of Spring have already gone.


Summer is near, Summer is near, Summer is near!


11.  High-speed Communications: First let's remind ourselves that these had their beginning only 170 or so years ago with the advent of the electric telegraph. So it's remarkable isn't it, the way in which electronic communications have gone on to "shrink the world" through radio, TV, and the Internet?

Was Jesus hinting at this, nearly 2,000 years ago? He prophesied, "For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be." Matthew 24:27 (NAS 1975).

Lightning is a vivid demonstration of the natural power of electricity. But what else "flashes across the sky" these days? At the speed of light: the invisible signals from TV and radio transmitters. We should remind ourselves that these signals are not themselves electrical - they're part of the broad spectrum of electromagnetic radiation (a spectrum which also includes light, by the way). But TV and radio signals are, as the reader is no doubt well aware, both generated by electrical power, and received by TV/radio sets that likewise run on electricity.

So the parallel between lightning "flashes" and TV news "flashes" is pretty close. And can anyone doubt that if there is the slightest hint of Jesus' Return at a certain time and place, those camera crews will be ready and waiting?

Was our Lord saying something about broadcasting and His Coming?

12.  Worldwide Evangelism: "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come." Matthew 24:14 (NAS 1975).

This is a very surprising Prophecy! Three of the above headings (Unbelief, Sin, and Rejection of Christ and Christians) were dealing with how bad things would get - yet here is Christ saying, "Look for the Message of Salvation to be spread over all the world!" And it's happening!

Doesn't this confirm the Power of the Gospel? It would be natural to think that, as the wars and other trials of the End-Time struck blows at people's faith, the Gospel would suffer. But when the outlook is at its worst, that's when people need something solid to hold onto. Jesus is there - He does not let us down.

^  One shining example: during the darkest days of WWII, God ministered through Corrie ten Boom and others as they shared their love of Jesus with their fellow-prisoners, in Ravensbrück concentration camp(15).

The Bible Societies and other agencies are very hard at work today translating the Bible Books into the remaining tongues. The languages concerned do not belong to whole nations but to tribes and other "people groups" throughout the world. The problems of distance are being overcome - there are satellite dishes in African villages, bringing the Gospel message to these people, via community TV receivers.

What about the traditional Christian lands? Here folks have tried unbelief - it didn't seem to work. The Life that Jesus extends to us, giving purpose where before there was emptinesss, is being received with joy in many hearts. And there are new tools to help spread the Truth. The Bible in modern versions - more accessible Scripture, Bible study guides on computer, Christian tapes, records, magazines, books, radio, TV (and of course the Internet). All these are playing a part in getting the Message out. Even in that once closed region - the former USSR - there is new hope. Evangelists are bringing Bibles in Russian and other languages, and the Gospel is being read there avidly.

The result of all this? New vigor in the Church! People talking about Miraculous answers to prayer! People seeking out the Truths in the Bible. A fresh interest in putting Scripture into practice, including sharing God's Message with others.

This Prophecy is in process of being fulfilled - the whole world will be reached, before long. Then, in accordance with His Word, Christ can return!

13.  Life on a larger scale: "And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth dismay ..." Luke 21:25 (NAS 1975).

We looked at the black side already, but there's a silver lining!

Some of you will remember the excitement of 1969 when Neil Armstrong and team made it to the Moon. How beautiful the Earth looked, viewed from that perspective! Down here though, there were quite a few problems yet. The president who had set the target of reaching the Moon by 1970 had been assassinated, there was all the unrest about Vietnam etc, and a large part of the world was short of food.

God said it! God knew we would be given something to compensate for all our troubles: we would start to overcome the limits of Earth. Then we'd be very interested in the Sun, Moon and "stars." However there would be "dismay" about things still not sorted out on Earth.

The final Sign is the best news of all!

14.  The World Saved: "And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short." Matthew 24:22 (NAS 1975).

We don't need to belabor the first part of this Prophecy - we should know by now that a nuclear future is no future. It does introduce the idea though, of Time. We may not have forever to get our act together! Perhaps "Time is of the essence" here too?

^  By the way, a Christian - David H. Janzen - fasted and prayed; he received this Word from God (if you care to believe it - this writer does): Namely that we have already been saved from nuclear war, on more than one occasion!

This Scripture gives us absolute certainty that God wants to rescue the world from the disaster that humans are now able to engineer. Jesus stands ready to save - "for the sake of the elect." We have to do something: we have to demonstrate that we care to receive God's Blessing. If we continue to show that we're not bothered, why should God bother? Yes, in a sense, we must elect God!

Provided we do make this response we have GOD's Assurance that we will be saved!

Summary

We've reviewed Scriptures given by Jesus, that shed Light on a special time in history: the End-Time. From the standpoint of Israel, we've seen how the rebirth of this nation in 1948 is a very clear Sign of the Times. Then there are other Signs given mainly to the Gentile nations: 14 of these were listed above. Some are of the "gentle hint" variety, but not all - some are strong and unique identifiers.

You may now feel (as the writer does) that the above Signs taken together, point absolutely to us being in the End-Time. If not, then the next chapter - on other Signs given to us - could be of special interest to you!


Chapter 4 (2nd half) Notes

^  7-2. The Economist Book of Vital World Statistics - 1990
(London: Hutchinson Business Books Ltd., 1990).
^  8-2. Consumers' Association, Living With Stress
(London: Consumers' Association, 1984).
^  9. David Reuben MD, The Save Your Life Diet
(London: Ebury Press, 1976), and many others.
^  10. V. Schrire, [article title unknown], South African Medical Journal
Vol.45, 1971, pgs. 634-644.
^  11. The Economist Book of Vital World Statistics - 1990
(London: Hutchinson Business Books Ltd., 1990).
    12. Reserved
^  13. The Day After, made-for-ABC-TV movie directed by Nicholas Meyer
(US: 1983).
^  14. Hal Lindsey with C. C. Carlson, The Late Great Planet Earth
(New York: Bantam Books, Inc., 1979).
^  15. Corrie ten Boom, John L.Sherrill, Elizabeth Sherrill - contributor,
The Hiding Place (Chicago, New York, Toronto: Fleming H Revell Co., 1996).

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