Bible Study Guides – “What Shall Be the Sign?”

May 14-20, 2000 

MEMORY VERSE: “And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” John 14:29.

STUDY HELP: The Desire of Ages, 627–636.

INTRODUCTION: “After He had given the signs of His coming, Christ said, ‘When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.’ ‘Take ye heed, watch and pray.’ God has always given men warning of coming judgments. Those who had faith in His message for their time, and who acted out their faith, in obedience to His commandments, escaped the judgments that fell upon the disobedient and unbelieving. The word came to Noah, ‘Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me.’ Noah obeyed and was saved. The message came to Lot, ‘Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city.’ Genesis 7:1; 19:14. Lot placed himself under the guardianship of the heavenly messengers, and was saved. So Christ’s disciples were given warning of the destruction of Jerusalem. Those who watched for the sign of the coming ruin, and fled from the city, escaped the destruction. So now we are given warning of Christ’s Second Coming and of the destruction to fall upon the world. Those who heed the warning will be saved.’ The Desire of Ages, 634.

“Signs in the sun, moon and stars”

1 What sign of Christ’s coming was John first shown? Revelation 6:12, first part.

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.” The Great Controversy, 304. (See also pages 304–306.)

2 What celestial signs did Jesus warn of? Mark 13:24. (Compare Revelation 6:12, 13.)

NOTE:: “Twenty-five years later appeared the next sign mentioned in the prophecy—the darkening of the sun and moon.” The Great Controversy, 306, 308.

3 What further celestial sign did Jesus warn of? Mark 13:25.

NOTE: “This prophecy received a striking and impressive fulfillment in the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833. That was the most extensive and wonderful display of falling stars which has ever been recorded; ‘the whole firmament, over all the United States, being then, for hours, in fiery commotion! No celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in this country, since its first settlement, which was viewed with such intense admiration by one class in the community, or with so much dread and alarm by another.” The Great Controversy, 333.

“On the Earth Distress of Nations With Perplexity”

4 Besides the celestial signs, what did Jesus tell us of the state of mankind in the last days? Luke 21:25, last part.

NOTE: “The signs in the sun, moon, and stars have been fulfilled. Since that time earthquakes, tempests, tidal waves, pestilence, and famine have multiplied. The most awful destructions, by fire and flood, are following one another in quick succession. The terrible disasters that are taking place from week to week speak to us in earnest tones of warning, declaring that the end is near, that something great and decisive will soon of necessity take place.” The Review and Herald, November 22, 1906.

5 How is the reaction to the increasing disasters described? Luke 21:26.

NOTE: “Not long ago a very impressive scene passed before me. I saw an immense ball of fire falling among some beautiful mansions, causing their instant destruction. I heard someone say, ‘We knew that the judgments of God were coming upon the earth, but we did not know that they would come so soon.’ Others said, ‘You knew? Why then did you not tell us? We did not know.’ On every side I heard such words spoken. Soon grievous troubles will arise among the nations—trouble that will not cease until Jesus comes. As never before we need to press together, serving Him who has prepared His throne in the heavens and Whose kingdom ruleth over all. God has not forsaken His people, and our strength lies in not forsaking Him. The judgments of God are in the land. The wars and rumors of wars, the destruction by fire and flood, say clearly that the time of trouble, which is to increase until the end, is very near at hand. We have no time to lose. The world is stirred with the spirit of war. The prophecies of the eleventh of Daniel have almost reached their final fulfillment.” Maranatha, 25.

“Famines and Earthquakes and Pestilences”

6 What further calamities are signs of Christ’s coming? Matthew 24:7, last part.

NOTE: “Christ is coming soon. He declared that when there would be wars and rumors of wars, when there would be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places, we might know that the time of His second appearing is near. ‘When these things begin to come to pass,’ He declared, ‘then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.’ Christ represented this time by the parable of the fig tree. ‘Behold the fig tree,’ He said, ‘and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.’ The wickedness, the turmoil, the disturbances on every side, should be regarded by us as signs that the day of God is at hand. We are standing on the verge of the eternal world. We have no time to lose. It is high time to tell the people that Christ is coming. Let us warn them, visiting them at their homes, and talking and praying with them personally. By such efforts we shall win souls to Christ. If we come to God in faith, He will give us power and grace for every duty.” Peter’s Counsel to Parents, 33.

“Already the restraining Spirit of God is being withdrawn from the earth. Hurricanes, storms, tempests, fire and flood, disasters by sea and land, follow each other in quick succession. Science seeks to explain all these. The signs thickening around us, telling of the near approach of the Son of God, are attributed to any other than the true cause. Men cannot discern the sentinel angels restraining the four winds that they may not blow until the servants of God are sealed; but when God shall bid his angels loose the winds, there will be such a scene of His avenging wrath as no pen can picture.” The Review and Herald, January 11, 1887.

7 What restraining work was seen by John and what was its purpose? Revelation 7:1–3.

NOTE: “John sees the elements of nature—earthquake, tempest, and political strife—represented as being held by four angels. These winds are under control until God gives the word to let them go. There is the safety of God’s church. The angels of God do His bid-ding, holding back the winds of the earth, that the winds should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree, until the servants of God should be sealed in their foreheads.…Angels are now restraining the winds of strife, until the world shall be warned of its coming doom; but a storm is gathering, ready to burst upon the earth, and when God shall bid His angels loose the winds, there will
be such a scene of strife as no pen can picture.” Maranatha, 266. (See also Early Writings, 58.)

“Wars and Rumors of Wars”

8 How did Jesus tell His followers to react to political developments? Matthew 24:6, 7, first part.

NOTE: “The coming of the Lord is nearer than when we first believed. The Great Controversy is nearing its end. Every report of calamity by sea or land is a testimony to the fact that the end of all things is at hand. Wars and rumors of wars declare it. Is there a Christian whose pulse does not beat with quickened action as he anticipates the great events opening before us? The Lord is coming. We hear the footsteps of an approaching God, as He comes to punish the world for its iniquity. We are to prepare the way for Him by acting our part in getting a people ready for that great day.” Review and Herald, November 12, 1914. (See also Evangelism, 240, 241.)

9 What final alliance will take place among the nations and whom will they combine against? Revelation 16:13–16.

NOTE: “The battle of Armageddon is soon to be fought. He on Whose vesture is written the name, King of kings and Lord of lords, leads forth the armies of heaven on white horses, clothed in fine linen, clean and white. Every form of evil is to spring into intense activity. Evil angels unite their powers with evil men, and as they have been in constant conflict and attained an experience in the best modes of deception and battle, and have been strengthening for centuries, they will not yield the last great final contest without a desperate struggle. All the world will be on one side or the other of the question.…On one side stands the Creator of heaven and earth. All on His side bear His signet. They are obedient to His commands. On the other side stands the prince of darkness, with those who have chosen apostasy and rebellion.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 982, 983.

“And Then Shall the End Come”

10 What work is to be accomplished before the end comes? Matthew 24:14.

NOTE: “Long has God waited for the spirit of service to take possession of the whole church so that everyone shall be working for Him according to his ability. When the members of the church of God do their appointed work in the needy fields at home and abroad, in fulfillment of the gospel commission, the whole world will soon be warned and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth
with power and great glory.” Acts of the Apostles, 111. (See also The Desire of Ages, 633, 634.)

11 What preparation is necessary before God’s people can complete their work? Ephesians 5:25–27. Compare Hebrews 10:22–25, 1 Corinthians 1:7, 8.

NOTE: “He [Paul] reminded them of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which they had received, and showed that it was their privilege to make continual advancement in the Christian life until they should attain to the purity and holiness of Christ.” Acts of the Apostles, 301. (See also Ibid., 600.)

“Take Heed That No Man Deceive You”

12. What repeated warning did Christ give to His people? Matthew 24:4, 11, 23–26. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

NOTE: “Said Paul: ‘There’ shall ‘come a falling away…and that man of sin be revealed.’ 2 Thessalonians 2:3. So apostasy in the church will prepare the way for the image to the beast. Satan will work with all power and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.’ (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10.) His working is plainly revealed by the rapidly increasing darkness, the multitudinous errors, heresies, and delusions of these last days. Not only is Satan leading the world captive, but his deceptions are leavening the professed churches of our Lord Jesus Christ. The great apostasy will develop into darkness deep as midnight. To God’s people it will be a night of trial, a night of weeping, a night of persecution for the truth’s sake. But out of that night of darkness God’s light will shine.” Maranatha, 165.

13 What defenses do God’s people have against the prevailing deceptions? Matthew 24:26. Compare Ephesians 4:13, 14.

NOTE: “Only those who have been diligent students of the Scriptures, and who have received the love of the truth, will be shielded from the powerful delusion that takes the world captive. The Saviour has warned His people…and has clearly foretold the manner of His Second Coming. ‘There shall arise false Christs.…Wherefore if they shall say unto you, ‘Behold, He is in the desert;’ go not forth: ‘behold, He is in the secret chambers;’ believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.’ Matthew 24:24–27. This coming, there is no possibility of counterfeiting. It will be universally known—witnessed by the whole world. Are the people of God now so firmly established upon His Word that they would not yield to the evidence of their senses? Would they, in such a crisis, cling to the Bible, and the Bible only?” The Faith I Live By, 346.

The Sure Word of Prophecy

“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:1–6

Although the birth of Jesus was not an obvious fulfillment of prophecy to the Jews (and still isn’t), those walking in the Light that streamed so brilliantly from heaven indeed recognized it as fulfillment of prophecy. Strangely, though, even His faithful disciples did not realize that His crucifixion was also prophecy fulfilled. After the resurrection, however, there was no doubt in the minds of Christ’s followers that His birth, crucifixion, and resurrection had been clearly foretold by the Old Testament prophets.

When the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, did the Jewish leaders recognize what was happening? Clearly not, for we are told, “The priests and rulers were greatly enraged at this wonderful manifestation.” The Acts of the Apostles, 40.

So clearly, they did not recognize the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as a fulfillment of prophecy.

“In answer to the accusation of the priests Peter showed that this demonstration was in direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel, wherein he foretold that such power would come upon men to fit them for a special work.” Ibid., 41.

Are there prophecies being fulfilled in our day, this very day, that are not being acknowledged as fulfillment of prophecy? Certainly there are—most not recognized by the world and some not recognized even by Adventists.

“There are in the world today many who close their eyes to the evidences that Christ has given to warn men of His coming. They seek to quiet all apprehension, while at the same time the signs of the end are rapidly fulfilling, and the world is hastening to the time when the Son of man shall be revealed in the clouds of heaven. Paul teaches that it is sinful to be indifferent to the signs which are to precede the second coming of Christ. Those guilty of this neglect he calls children of the night and of darkness. He encourages the vigilant and watchful with these words: ‘But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.’ ” Ibid., 260. [Emphasis supplied.]

Let’s look briefly at some of the events that are occurring around the world right now that perhaps only the children of light recognize as fulfillment of prophecy.

Wars and rumors of war…

What is sometimes termed “saber rattling” is occurring with greater and greater frequency. Think of the situations in Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, the tension between India and Pakistan, between Turkey and Syria, or between the US and China or between the US and Iran. The list goes on.


The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that about 815 million people of the 7.6 billion people in the world, or more than 10%, are suffering from chronic undernourishment.

The FAO estimates that as many as 25,000 people lose their lives every day as a result of hunger. That adds up to roughly 9.1 million people who die of starvation each year.


The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa was the largest Ebola outbreak since the virus was first discovered in 1976. The outbreak started in Guinea and then moved across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The current 2018-2019 outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is highly complex, with insecurity adversely affecting public health response activities.

AIDS, MRSA, Legionnaire’s disease, and other pestilences are so common today that we no longer grow alarmed when we hear of occurrences.

Fifty years ago, entire city school systems had at most one medical professional on staff, since chronic illness was relatively unknown among school-age children. Today, it is not uncommon to have a registered health-care professional at every elementary educational facility because of the general degeneration in the health of humankind and the pervasiveness of chronic illnesses among the youth.

Earthquakes in various places

“Scientists analyzed the historical record of earthquakes greater than 8.0 in magnitude and concluded that the global frequency of large earthquakes is no higher today than it has been in the past. Results of the study were published on January 17, 2012, in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

Further reading reveals that the frequency has increased from 1.0 to 1.2 per year, which is noted in the cited article as not statistically significant. It should be noted, however, that a 20% increase is indeed significant. Just ask the folks in Alpine, Texas, Hutchinson, Kansas, or Perry, Oklahoma, where earthquakes have recently occurred, with no precedents.

“Magnitude 2 and smaller earthquakes occur several hundred times a day worldwide.

Major earthquakes, greater than magnitude 7, happen more than once per month.

‘Great earthquakes,’ magnitude 8 and higher, occur about once a year.” Ibid.

What are some other prophetic signs of the times that Scripture mentions, some that even those who might claim to be children of light fail to recognize as fulfillment of prophecy?

“Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished” (Isaiah 51:6).

Psalm 102:25, 26 states, “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed.”

These texts provide a rather reassuring declaration of the current state of things: “They will perish … they will grow old like a garment”; and a declaration also of the hope we maintain in an earth made new: “You will change them, and they will be changed.”

Paul quotes this passage from Psalm 102 in Hebrews 1:10–12—approximately seven centuries after Isaiah wrote them. So clearly, he understood the prophetic implications of this passage.

Most people who are in their sixth or seventh decade of life and who might be feeling what Inspiration terms “the infirmities of age” can attest to the fact that “growing old” does not happen overnight. The evidences of aging creep up little by little until one finds that aches, pains, and stiffness are not just infrequent visitors but have become permanent residents. But as to the earth’s growing old like a garment, we query: Is there evidence of that terrestrial aging now? Most would assert that there definitely is.

Before we look at some of these, however, let’s make sure that we understand the difference between a theory and a fact.

According to the dictionary, a theory is “a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation.” One example given is “Darwin’s theory of evolution.” Unfortunately, this theory has been accepted as fact by much of the scientific community. Synonyms for “theory” include hypothesis, conjecture, supposition, speculation.

A fact, on the other hand, is “a truth known by actual experience or observation; something known to be true.” Examples: Fire is hot; water is wet; ice is cold.

Let’s look at some actual, empirical facts that indicate that the earth is indeed growing old. These are not theories that cannot be proven, such as evolution. These are empirically determined facts. Unfortunately, many of these facts are clouded by the theory that the earth is billions of years old. We need to be careful not to let that erroneous and unprovable theory cause us to disregard provable scientific findings.

  1. Increase in carbon dioxide in atmosphere

Ancient air bubbles trapped in ice enable us to step back in time and see what Earth’s atmosphere and climate were like in the distant past. They tell us that levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today are higher than they have been at any time in the past. [The author’s give the time estimate at 400,000 years, based on the unproven theory of uniformitarianism.] During ice ages, CO2 levels were around 200 parts per million (ppm), and during the warmer interglacial periods, they hovered around 280 ppm. In 2013, CO2 levels surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history. This recent relentless rise in CO2 shows a remarkably constant relationship with fossil-fuel burning, and can be well accounted for based on the simple premise that about 60 percent of fossil-fuel emissions stay in the air. (See Different studies quote vastly different time periods, a fact which clouds the empirical findings of these studies.

  1. The effects that changes in the nature of the ocean have on aquatic life

Warming oceans are losing oxygen. Oxygen levels in some tropical regions have dropped by a startling 40 percent in the last 50 years, some recent studies reveal. Levels have dropped more subtly elsewhere, with an average loss of 2 percent globally.

  1. Sea level rise

Since at least the start of the 20th century, the average global sea level has been rising. Between 1900 and 2016, the sea level rose by more than 6 inches. More precise data gathered from satellite radar measurements reveal an accelerating rise of 3.0 inches from 1993 to 2017, which is a trend of roughly 12 inches per century. This acceleration is due mostly to global warming, which is driving thermal expansion of seawater and the melting of land-based ice sheets and glaciers.

  1. Ecosystems are changing drastically due to invasive plant and animal species

An invasive species is a species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy, or human health.

Notable examples of invasive plant species include the kudzu vine, Andean pampas grass, and yellow starthistle. Animal examples include the New Zealand mud snail, feral pigs, European rabbits, grey squirrels, domestic cats, carp, zebra mussels, Japanese beetles, boa constrictors in Florida, iguanas throughout the southeast and into Arizona, and ferrets.

Invasion of long-established ecosystems by organisms from distant bio-regions has accelerated massively in recent decades, hastened by international trade. (See

The beautifully balanced ecosystems that Divine wisdom established when the earth was created have been royally imbalanced as a result of the sinful nature of man, inherited from our fallen forebears.

When we see these signs of the time, there is no need to be despondent and discouraged that earth’s ecosystems are getting out of kilter and signs of an aging planet are becoming more and more prevalent. After all, that’s what the Bible predicts. Instead, let us rejoice and recognize that the return of our Lord and Saviour is drawing ever closer.

May it be said of us, as it was said of Paul, “The foundation of his faith was the sure word of prophecy.” May God enlighten us so that we can recognize prophecy being fulfilled on a daily basis.

John R. Pearson is the office manager and a board member of Steps to Life. He may be contacted by email at: