Bible Study Guides – Signs of Christ’s Coming Near

August 12, 2007 – August 18, 2007

Key Text

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” Luke 21:28.

Study Help: The Great Controversy, 299-316.


“Let men beware lest they neglect the lesson conveyed to them in the words of Christ. As He [Jesus] warned His disciples of Jerusalem’s destruction, giving them a sign of the approaching ruin, that they might make their escape; so He has warned the world of the day of final destruction and has given them tokens of its approach, that all who will may flee from the wrath to come.” The Great Controversy, 37.

“In Matthew 24, in answer to the question of His disciples concerning the sign of His coming and of the end of the world, Christ had pointed out some of the most important events in the history of the world and of the church from His first to His second advent; namely, the destruction of Jerusalem, the great tribulation of the church under the pagan and papal persecutions, the darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars. After this He spoke of His coming in His kingdom, and related the parable describing the two classes of servants who look for His appearing.” Ibid., 393.

1 Where did Jesus say there would be signs? Luke 21:25.

note: “We see and hear of confusion and perplexity, want and famine, earthquakes and floods; terrible outrages will be committed by men; passion, not reason, bears sway. The wrath of God is upon the inhabitants of the world, who are fast becoming as corrupt as were the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. Already fire and flood are destroying thousands of lives and the property that has been selfishly accumulated by the oppression of the poor. The Lord is soon to cut short His work and put an end to sin. Oh, that the scenes which have come before me [Ellen White] of the iniquities practiced in these last days, might make a deep impression on the minds of God’s professing people.” Testimonies, vol. 8, 49, 50.

2 What signs did Jesus say would be seen in the sun, moon, and stars? Matthew 24:29.

note: “December 16, 1848, the Lord gave me [Ellen White] a view of the shaking of the powers of the heavens. I saw that when the Lord said ‘heaven,’ in giving the signs recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, He meant heaven, and when He said ‘earth’ He meant earth. The powers of heaven are the sun, moon, and stars. They rule in the heavens. The powers of earth are those that rule on the earth. The powers of heaven will be shaken at the voice of God. Then the sun, moon, and stars will be moved out of their places. They will not pass away, but be shaken by the voice of God.” Early Writings, 41.

3 When did Jesus say the sun would be darkened? Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24.

note: “The Saviour gives signs of His coming, and more than this, He fixes the time when the first of these signs shall appear: [Matthew 24:29-31 quoted].

“At the close of the great papal persecution, Christ declared, the sun should be darkened, and the moon should not give her light.” The Desire of Ages, 631, 632.

4 What is said of the character of this tribulation? Matthew 24:21.

note: “Christ gave His disciples a sign of the ruin to come on Jerusalem, and He told them how to escape: . . .

“From the destruction of Jerusalem, Christ passed on rapidly to the greater event, the last link in the chain of this earth’s history,–the coming of the Son of God in majesty and glory. Between these two events, there lay open to Christ’s view long centuries of darkness, centuries for His church marked with blood and tears and agony. Upon these scenes His disciples could not then endure to look, and Jesus passed them by with a brief mention.” The Desire of Ages, 630, 631.

5 What other great event did Jesus say would precede the darkening of the sun? Revelation 6:12.

note: “In fulfillment of this prophecy there occurred, in the year 1755, the most terrible earthquake that has ever been recorded. Though commonly known as the earthquake of Lisbon, it extended to the greater part of Europe, Africa, and America. It was felt in Greenland, in the West Indies, in the island of Madeira, in Norway and Sweden, Great Britain and Ireland. It pervaded an extent of not less than four million square miles. In Africa the shock was almost as severe as in Europe. A great part of Algiers was destroyed; and a short distance from Morocco, a village containing eight or ten thousand inhabitants was swallowed up. A vast wave swept over the coast of Spain and Africa engulfing cities and causing great destruction.

“It was in Spain and Portugal that the shock manifested its extreme violence. At Cadiz the inflowing wave was said to be sixty feet high. Mountains, ‘some of the largest in Portugal, were impetuously shaken, as it were, from their very foundations, and some of them opened at their summits, which were split and rent in a wonderful manner, huge masses of them being thrown down into the adjacent valleys. Flames are related to have issued from these mountains.’ ”Sir Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology, page 495.” The Great Controversy, 304.

6 What is connected with the great tribulation that helps us to locate it?

note: There have been a great many tribulations through which God’s people have had to pass. If the Saviour had only spoken of a tribulation, we should have been at a loss to know which one He meant. But He connects with it three specifications that locate it beyond a doubt; first, it is a great tribulation; second, there never was one like it before, nor ever will be another like it again; third, there is a certain time called “days” allotted to it.

7 What persecution of the past will fulfill these specifications? Revelation 11:2-11.

note: There is one persecution, and only one, that meets the demands of the Saviour’s words, and that is found in the papal persecution, from a.d. 538 to 1798. It was great in extent and severity. There never was a time when so many of God’s people sealed their testimony with their blood. About 50 million people suffered martyrdom at the hands of this power. According to other prophecies, it was to have authority over the saints for “time, times, and dividing of times” (Daniel 7:25; Revelation 12:14); 1260 days (Revelation 12:6); or 42 months (Revelation 13:5), which literally signifies 1260 years.

“[Revelation 11:2-11 quoted.] The periods here mentioned–‘forty and two months,’ and ‘a thousand two hundred and threescore days’–are the same, alike representing the time in which the church of Christ was to suffer oppression from Rome. The 1260 years of papal supremacy began in a.d. 538, and would therefore terminate in 1798.” The Great Controversy, 266.

8 When would “the days” of the great persecution close?

note: The days began with the subjection of the Ostrogoths in a.d. 538, and, continuing 1260 years, would close a.d. 1798, when the Papacy as a persecutor was overthrown.

“The apostle Paul warned the church not to look for the coming of Christ in his day. ‘That day shall not come,’ he says, ‘except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed.’ 11 Thessalonians 2:3. Not till after the great apostasy, and the long period of the reign of the ‘man of sin,’ can we look for the advent of our Lord. The ‘man of sin,’ which is also styled ‘the mystery of iniquity,’ ‘the son of perdition,’ and ‘that wicked,’ [11 Thessalonians 2:7, 3, 8] represents the papacy, which, as foretold in prophecy, was to maintain its supremacy for 1260 years. This period ended in 1798. The coming of Christ could not take place before that time.” The Great Controversy, 356.

9 How does Mark speak of the tribulation and the days? Mark 13:24.

note: “These signs were witnessed before the opening of the nineteenth century.” The Great Controversy, 304.

10 Which closes first, the “tribulation” or “days”? What time did the tribulation cease?

note: The empress of Austria was the first European ruler to issue an edict of tolerance to Christianity, which took place in a.d. 1776. Owing to the work of the reformers, persecution ceased in the other states about the same time.

11 Then between what two dates would the darkening have to come to be a sign? Answer: Between 1776 and 1798. Was the sun darkened at this time? Give a description of the dark day in 1780.

note: “ ‘Almost, if not altogether alone, as the most mysterious and as yet unexplained phenomenon of its kind, . . . stands the dark day of May 19, 1780,–a most unaccountable darkening of the whole visible heavens and atmosphere in New England.’–R. M. Devens, Our First Century, page 89.” The Great Controversy, 306.

“May 19, 1780, stands in history as ‘The Dark Day.’ Since the time of Moses no period of darkness of equal density, extent, and duration, has ever been recorded. The description of this event, as given by eyewitnesses, is but an echo of the words of the Lord, recorded by the prophet Joel, twenty-five hundred years previous to their fulfillment: ‘The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.’ Joel 2:31.” Ibid., 308.

12 When was the sign in the moon fulfilled?

note: “The intense darkness of the day was succeeded, an hour or two before evening, by a partially clear sky, and the sun appeared, though it was still obscured by the black, heavy mist. ‘After sundown, the clouds came again overhead, and it grew dark very fast.’ ‘Nor was the darkness of the night less uncommon and terrifying than that of the day; notwithstanding there was almost a full moon, no object was discernible but by the help of some artificial light, which, when seen from the neighboring houses and other places at a distance, appeared through a kind of Egyptian darkness which seemed almost impervious to the rays.’–Isaiah Thomas, Massachusetts Spy; or, American Oracle of Liberty, vol. 10, No. 472 (May 25, 1780). Said an eyewitness of the scene: ‘I could not help conceiving at the time, that if every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable shades, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete.’–Letter by Dr. Samuel Tenney, of Exeter, New Hampshire, December, 1785 (in Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 1792, 1st series, vol. 1, p. 97). Though at nine o’clock that night the moon rose to the full, ‘it had not the least effect to dispel the deathlike shadows.’ After midnight the darkness disappeared, and the moon, when first visible, had the appearance of blood.” The Great Controversy, 307, 308.

13 What did Jesus exhort His people to do when they saw these things begin to come to pass? Luke 21:28.

note: “The words of Jesus Christ are spoken to us living down here in the close of this earth’s history. ‘When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.’ [Luke 21:28.] The nations are in unrest. Times of perplexity are upon us. The waves of the sea are roaring; men’s hearts are failing them for fear and for expectation of those things that are coming upon the earth; but those who believe on the Son of God will hear His voice amid the storm, saying, ‘It is I; be not afraid.’ [John 6:20.] . . . We see the world lying in wickedness and apostasy. Rebellion to the commandments of God seems almost universal. Amid the tumult of excitement with confusion in every place, there is a work to be done in the world.” Evangelism, 18.