By Cody Francis
How long can this world continue? Will this world continue for thousands of years, or do we only have a few days left? Others do not think that this world will ever end, that it will just continue on and on. There have been many different scares that have arisen in recent years. There were the Communist spy hunts, and bomb threats. It was thought by many that the world would end in a nuclear holocaust, that the United States and the Soviet Union would bomb the world into oblivion. Then there were the famines. With such dreadful famines raging around the world, it could have been thought that the world would starve to death. Then there was the environmental scare. All of the rainforests were going to be cut down, the whales, owls, and other animals were going to be driven into extinction; the CFCs were going to destroy the ozone layer; the dumps were going to overflow into the cities; the nuclear wastes were going to contaminate all of our water; and basically we were going to cause our own world to end. Then came global warming. All of the pollution is causing the temperature of our world to rise. The world climates would become hotter, the ice caps would melt; the world would be drowned in its own perspiration. Next came Y2K. All of the computers were going to go bezerk, banking would be shut down; world trade would be closed; looting and rioting would be rampant; the stock market would crash; airplanes would go down—the world as we know it would end. As we survey the panics that have swept through our world in recent years, it leads us to question, will the world ever end? Clearly none of these terrible catastrophes has caused the terrible end of the world as we know it. Thousands have prepared their own private bomb shelters with years of food supplies, ammunition and whatever else they think might be needed to survive the end of the world, but, it has not happened yet. Will it ever happen?
Do we have a more accurate predictor than all of these unreliable suspicions? Is there a way that we can know how the world will end? There is, in fact, a book that has foretold how the world will end. We are even given a general description of what the world will be like when this fateful day occurs. This book has never missed the mark once, and this isn’t a scheme to get your money. It is a book that nearly everyone in the world already owns or has at least heard about. It is the Holy Bible.
The Bible does, indeed, talk a great deal about the end of the world, but not in the same way that many describe it today. The end of the world is something that Jesus Himself mentioned more than once. “As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world…” Matthew 13:40. “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just.” Matthew 13:49. “And as He sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?’ ” Matthew 24:3. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20.
In Jesus’ teaching He repeatedly mentioned “the end of the world” or as it is put in the New King James Version, “the end of the age.” Since all modern predictions of the end of the world have failed, would it not make sense to see what the One who never errs says the end of the world will be like? Is the end of the world an event for which we need to prepare? Is the end of the world something to dread? What will bring about the end of the world? What will the end of the world be like? How much longer do we have until the end comes?
Descriptions of the End
The end of the world is something that most of the prophets saw and described, although they did not use the wording “the end of the world.” Jesus was the one that outlined the signs of the end of the world. The disciples had heard Jesus mention the end of the world more than once, and now their curiosity had been sufficiently awakened that they asked about it. “And Jesus said unto them, ‘See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’ ” Matthew 24:2.
As the disciples where showing Jesus the great and magnificent stones of the temple, (See verse 1), Jesus predicted what was totally incomprehensible to the Jewish mind. The temple was the pride and joy of every loyal Jew and to think that it would be violently torn down was a horrid thought to the disciples’ minds, but Jesus’ words were too plain to be misunderstood. Not one stone was to be left standing upon another one.
When the disciples reached a more secluded place, they asked for more information as to when this event would occur. “And as He sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?’ ” Matthew 24:3. The disciples correlated the destruction of the temple with the end of the world, but they also connected the end of the world with another event—“the sign of Thy coming.”
The disciples had learned that the end of the world was connected with Jesus’ coming. Jesus Himself said, “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: And before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats…Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’ ” Matthew 25:31, 32, 41.
When Jesus comes in His glory, the wicked will be separated from the righteous as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats. This division of the righteous from the wicked Jesus said would occur at the end of the world. “So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:49, 50.
What then will this fateful day be like? Jesus, in answering the disciples’ question, gives many signs and a most glorious description of what will take place at the end of the world. “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:30, 31. Certainly, there could be nothing more climactic than this great event of Jesus’ glorious Second Coming.
When all the tribes of the earth see Jesus coming with the clouds of heaven, they weep and wail and lament. They see the One whom they have despised and rejected coming with unsurpassable majesty and glory. They know that their doom is sealed. His eyes are like a “flame of fire” (Revelation 19:12) and they pierce through the soul and read the inner most thoughts of the heart. Jesus returns as the Word of God (John 1:1, 14; Revelation 19:13) and “is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. The wicked mourn, for they know that Jesus can look through their very being and see every time that they have neglected the call to salvation; and they know that they are lost. Jesus’ record continues that He comes with power and great glory. The glory and power of the Lord fills the entire sky and “every eye shall see Him.” Revelation 1:7. Then, with a great blast of the trumpet of God, the righteous are all gathered together to be with the Lord. This was Jesus’ description of His coming and thus, of the end of the world as well.
There were many other Bible writers that described this awesome day as well. In fact, Jesus’ Second Coming and the end of the world is one of the recurring themes throughout Scripture. Starting all the way back with Enoch, “For Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints [the Greek word is hagios, literally “holy ones”], to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds.’ ” Jude 14, 15.
Job knew about the end of the world and Jesus’ Second Coming, “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” Job 19:25-27.
David saw the end of the world. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people. Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” Psalm 50:3-5.
Isaiah also saw this great day, “For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations… And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll… For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.” Isaiah 34:2, 4, 8.
Jeremiah tells what he saw. “Therefore prophesy thou against them all these words and say unto them, ‘The Lord shall roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He shall mightily roar upon His habitation; He shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth. A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth; for the Lord hath a controversy with the nations, He will plead with all flesh; He will give them that are wicked to the sword, saith the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth: they shall not be lamented, neither gathered, nor buried; they shall be dung upon the ground.’ ” Jerermiah 25:30-33.
Joel likewise records this climactic day. “The earth shall quake before them; the heavens shall tremble: the sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining: And the Lord shall utter His voice before His army: for His camp is very great: for He is strong that executeth His word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” Joel 2:10, 11
Paul also saw this day, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:” II Thessalonians 1:7, 8.
Peter gives a most graphic description of what will happen at the end of the world. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” II Peter 3:10-12. The prophets, from the first to the last, talk of this great day. There is no doubt that the Bible does talk about the end of the world, but exactly what will happen when the end comes?
Indeed, there are going to be many different events that occur at the end of the world, but the most important of them is what happens to the righteous. What will happen to those who have made a commitment to follow the Lord wherever He leads them?
The end of the world is not something that is terrifying or abhorrent to those who have been faithfully obeying God and His word. In fact, the end of the world is the most wonderful of all things for the righteous. There could be nothing better. It is the consummation of their hopes and their final deliverance from sin and its terrible curse. Just a few hours before Jesus was betrayed, He gave His disciples the greatest promise that could ever be given. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3. Jesus promised His disciples that He was going to come again! How it must have thrilled their hearts with joy when they were tempted to give way to grief that their Lord was taken away. Although He was no longer with them, they knew that He was going to return, and when He returned they would ever be with their Lord. (See I Thessalonians 4:17.)
Perhaps the sweetest of all promises to them was that Jesus was going to return again. Paul called it the blessed hope. “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” Titus 2:13.
It is when Jesus comes in His glory that the righteous receive their reward. “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels: and then He shall reward every man according to his works.” Matthew 16:27. “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory… Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:31, 34. Jesus promised that when He was to come again, with His glory, then, and not until then, were the righteous to receive their promised reward.
“For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:16-18. The Lord is going to descend from heaven with a mighty shout of victory. He is going to call His sleeping saints out of their graves just as He called Lazarus two thousand years ago. It will be the most glorious shout ever uttered and it will encircle the entire globe. It will pierce the ears of all those who have died in Jesus.
Then the trumpet of the Almighty God will be sounded, “and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” I Corinthians 15:52, 53. This change will occur to all, both the dead and the living, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” I Corinthians 15:52.
The angels shall be sent to the four corners of the earth to gather together God’s elect, those who are still living and those who just came forth from the grave clothed in immortality. (See Mark 13:27.) Then all will meet their Savior in the air and ascend to the “sea of glass mingled with fire.” (See Revelation 15:2.)
What a day that will be for the righteous! No wonder that the prophets looked forward to this day with the most earnest and eager anticipation. No wonder that this great day is repeated over and over again throughout the Scriptures. No wonder that the faithful of today can look forward to the end of the world, not with fear, but with great excitement.
To the righteous the end of the world will be the greatest event of their lives, but not so for those who have turned away their ear from hearing the law. (See Proverbs 28:9.) It will be the most dreadful day imaginable for them. Amos records their sorrowful experience. “Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! To what end is it for you? The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of the Lord be darkness, and not light? Even very dark, and no brightness in it?” Amos 5:18-20.
Amos uses the graphic description of a man running from a lion and then meeting a bear . That would no doubt be a bad day. As soon as you escape from the lion you are confronted by a bear! Then, once finally making it into the house and thinking that all is safe now, a serpent bites you on the hand. Thus it will be for all those who have not prepared for the end of the world.
John records the mournful cry of those who have not been faithful and obedient to our Lord. “And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?’” Revelation 6:14-17.
Instead of meeting their Lord with joy as the righteous do, the disobedient flee, to be hidden from His presence. They run as the priest and rulers ran from Jesus when He cleansed the temple. (See John 2:14, 15.) As the sky is filled with His glory they hide from their Creator, just as Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden when they had sinned. (See Genesis 3:8.) To them it would be more pleasant for the rocks to crush them than to look into the eyes of their Redeemer. They know that they have despised His mercy and that they are guilty. Their all consuming desire is to be hidden from the One who comes to “reward every man according to his works.” Matthew 16:27.
Jesus does not now come as the meek and lowly One in the manger, but now He rides forth as a conquering king. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He doth judge and make war… And the armies which were in heaven followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Revelation 19:11, 14, 15.
Now as the King of kings and Lord of lords, He returns, not only to receive His faithful people, but also to execute judgment upon those who have refused to accept His call of mercy. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” II Thessalonians 1:7-10.
When Jesus returns to be glorified in His faithful people, it will also be a day of great wailing and weeping for the disobedient. He will come with flaming fire and punish with everlasting destruction all of those who have not yielded their lives to Him. The flaming fire is actually nothing other than the glory of His presence. There is no man that has ever seen the glory of the Father. Only very few have seen Jesus’ glory through a veil. But when He returns, it will be completely different. Everyone will see His glory, for “every eye shall see Him.” Revelation 1:7. Every eye will see Him, and it will be the most glorious event that this world has ever known. Jesus will come “in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26. This world has never beheld such a glorious revelation.
Jesus will come with the threefold glory of His own, His Father’s, and of all the holy angels. One angel at Jesus’ resurrection was enough to knock a hardened group of Roman soldiers down to the ground as dead men. (See Matthew 28:2-4.) Imagine what the result will be when the entire sky is filled with the glory of “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands and thousands” of angels. But that is the least of the threefold glory. Then there is both the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son. This glory was enough to cause Moses’ face to shine (See Exodus 34:29-35) and to cause the disciples to be sorely afraid and fall down on their faces. (See Matthew 17:6.) Now all of the glory is emptied from heaven and poured upon this earth. No wonder the disobedient cry out in fear. In fact, this glory is so great that it consumes those who have not learned of Jesus through Bible study and prayer. “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” II Thessalonians 2:8, NKJV. The glory will be so intense that those who have not been accustomed to the glory of God by keeping His law (See Exodus 20:18, 19) will be consumed by the brightness and the glory of that day.
It is no wonder that the wicked are fearful of the end of the world. They have everything in the world and out of the world to fear for that fateful day, for it will indeed be a “day of darkness and of gloominess” for them. (See Joel 2:2.) For the righteous, the end of the world can be anticipated with great joy, for in that day they will be led to exclaim, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:9.
As opposite as night and day will be the fates of these two classes. For one, it will be the joyous beginning of eternity and for the other, the darkness and despair of eternal night. Where will you be on that great and awesome day? There will be no in-between class then, you will be on one side or the other. That is why the end of the world is referred to as “the harvest.” “The harvest is the end of the world.” Matthew 13:39.
In a harvest there is a separation into two groups—the wheat and the waste. The crop is shaken and sifted until there is only the good grain left, while the chaff is left, only to be burnt “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud One sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, ‘Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ And He that sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped… And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire: and cried with a loud cry to Him that had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Thrust in Thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.’ ” Revelation 14:14-16, 18, margin.
John sees two harvests—not three, or four, or five; only two. There is the wheat that is fully ripe (i.e., sin has been consumed from their lives), and then there are the grapes that are fully ripe (i.e., they are full of sin.) You will be in one of these two harvests. There is no way of escape. You will be on one side or the other.
For many the end of the world is going to come as the biggest surprise of their lives. They were eating, drinking, buying, selling, planting, building, but the end of the world came and they were not ready. They uttered the mournful words, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Jeremiah 8:20. Are you preparing for the end of the world, or is it preparing to take you? Your destiny depends upon the decisions that you are making today.
Since we are looking at the topic of the end of the world, it is important to note what will become of this earth when the end comes. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” II Peter 3:10-14.
Peter gives a most graphic description of what the end of the world will be like, and it is not hard to see why Jesus refers to this as the end of the world. The heavens above are going to pass away. What would happen if our atmosphere disintegrated and passed away? People have been worried for many years what will happen if our ozone layer gets too thin, but what if the entire atmosphere, ozone and all, just passed away? There is no doubt that it would be catastrophic.
When Jesus comes the heavens are going to be wiped away with a great noise. The very elements that make up this earth are going to melt away. The glory of God will be so great that the heavens will be unable to stand before Him, and the very elements upon which we live, stand, and move will melt as a candle. This old earth and all of its works will be burned up. All those whose hearts cling to this earth will see their works burn up. Mansions, no matter how earthquake proof or fireproof, will be of no use in that day, for it will be the end of the world. Because the end of all things is coming, Peter exhorts his readers to be without spot and blameless in Jesus. Only those who through His grace and strength are purified from sin will not be consumed by the devouring fires of the last days.
Although it will be the greatest holocaust in the history of this world, it will not be a complete end. Probably the most wicked areas of this earth will be utterly consumed by the flames of fire, but the entire earth will not be completely devoured. It will indeed be the end of the world, but this world will be visited. “I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down at the presence of the Lord, and by His fierce anger. For thus hath the Lord said, ‘The whole land shall be desolate; yet will I not make a full end.’ ” Jeremiah 4:23-27. Jeremiah describes the time in which there is no man, beast, or bird. All the cities are completely desolate and everything is broken down, but, even though the earth is destroyed and spoiled, it is not the complete end. It is not a full end until after the millennium, when the new heavens and new earth that we are to look for are created. (II Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17.)
Jesus’ Second Coming brings the end of this world of sin and misery. Everything is broken down, burned and destroyed by the glory and power of Jesus’ Second Coming. In fact, every single wall will fall to the ground. (See Ezekiel 38:20.) The wicked are destroyed by the power and the glory of God, while the righteous are caught up in the air and ascend to the sea of glass with Jesus. It is the end of the world. There are no more business transactions, no more meals to be made, no more nights of rest, no more walks in the park. Human life on planet earth ceases to exist. There is no man, beast or bird. The cities are desolate and destroyed and everywhere can be seen the charred remains of the flaming fire that had engulfed the world. Surely, it is the end of the world.
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Matthew 24:36. Jesus was very specific that we cannot know when the end of the world will be. It could not possibly have occurred on January 1, 2000, for Jesus said “that of the day and hour no one knows.” I have talked with various people who were convinced that they had figured out when the end of the world would be, but the time has passed and we are still here. If anyone comes trying to tell us exactly when the end of the world will be, we know that they are not from God. Jesus’ statement is too plain and clear to be misunderstood, but while we cannot know the day nor hour of Jesus’ coming, we are to know that it is near. “Now learn the parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” Matthew 24:32, 33.
Many signs are given that are an indication that we are living near the time of the end of the world. Jesus said that as we see the indications in nature that the season is about to change, so we are to know that His coming is near, even at the doors. Not only can we see that the end is near by signs, but Jesus rebuked the Pharisees sharply for not realizing the time in which they were living. “He answered and said unto them, ‘When it is evening, ye say, “It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.” And in the morning, “It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring.” O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?’ ” Matthew 16:2, 3.
Is the same saying applicable today? Without a doubt! Everyone knows the saying, “Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” Everyone can see the buds on the trees and the flowers blossoming and know that spring is near; but how many study the signs given in God’s word that the end is near? How much more important it is to know that the end of all things is near than just to know what the weather will be like tomorrow!
In a recent series of meetings studying some of these signs and the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, the participants studied some of the signs given in the Word of God and recognized that we don’t have much time left because the signs are fulfilling. After the meeting a man asserted adamantly that this could not be. He said, “Oh, it will come some time, but not in my lifetime. Everyone has always thought that it would come in their day, but it didn’t and it won’t come in our day either.” He, along with many others, will be terribly surprised.
The apostles did not think that they were living in the time in which the end would come. They knew better than that. Now it is true that they felt the need of constant watchfulness, and so it should be. Jesus Himself said that His followers needed to always be ready. “Watch therefore: for ye know now what hour your Lord doth come… Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Matthew 24:42, 44. Jesus said to be ready every moment of every day. Why? We don’t know when Jesus will come or when our probation may close in death; therefore our attitude must be one of constant watchfulness and readiness. But, even though the disciples knew the necessity of always being ready, they knew that Jesus’ Second Coming would not be in their day. There was still much unfulfilled prophecy. “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” II Thessalonians 2:2, 3.
Paul says not to be deceived into thinking that the time of the end of the world was imminent. That day is not going to come until the antichrist is revealed. Paul knew that it was still many days in the future. He had written to the Thessalonians earlier to instruct them that even if a person died, Christ would resurrect the faithful in that day. Paul knew that Jesus would not come in his lifetime.
To John it was revealed that the church would flee into the wilderness for a thousand two hundred and sixty days (Revelation 12:6.) [A day represents a year in prophetic time (Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34).] Surely there was no doubt in his mind that he would not live to see the end of the world. (See John 21:23.) Daniel saw the longest of all Biblical time prophecies—two thousand three hundred days (years). (See Daniel 8:14.) He knew that Jesus was not going to come in his time. Even Martin Luther knew that the judgment was not in his day. He put it nearly three hundred years in the future. (See The Reign of Christ on Earth: or, The Voice of the Church in All Ages, by Daniel T. Taylor, page 158.) The students of prophecy have known through the ages that the end of the world was not in their day, but they maintained a constant attitude of expectancy and readiness so that they would not be overtaken as a thief in the night. (See I Thessalonians 5:4.)
Today it is different, though. Paul could not say today that the antichrist must first be revealed, for he already has been! (See Steps to Life’s booklet, The Beasts Mark.) John could not say that the one thousand two hundred year prophecy still has to be fulfilled, for it already has been! (See Steps to Life’s booklet, Surviving the Great Tribulation.) Daniel could not point to the remaining days of the two thousand three hundred years, for there are none remaining! (See Steps to Life’s booklet Your Last Chance to be Saved.) We are living in the time in which all time prophecy has been fulfilled and the signs are being marked off one by one. We must discern the signs of the times and prepare for that great day, for “though it tarry, wait for it: because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” Habukuk 2:3.
There are many signs given in the Word of God so that we can know we are living close to the end of the world. Some have estimated that there are thirty to forty signs that we are in the last days. Jesus Himself gave us a great number of signs. As we look at the signs that He gave, they clearly reveal that we are indeed near the end of the world. “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.” Matthew 24:7.
Jesus gave a list of four signs that were to precede His coming:
- international tensions,
- pestilences, and
Have these occurred? Let us look at the first one. Is there international tension? Perhaps it would make more sense to ask, Where are there not international tensions? During the twentieth century there were multitudes of wars, peace treaties and tensions. World War I, World War II, Korean War, the Mid-East conflicts, Vietnam, the Cold War, Panama, Nicaragua, Desert Storm, and the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. There has been a war going on all over the world almost constantly.
The World Court was set up, then came NATO; the United Nations; but none of these have been successful in establishing peace. A hundred years since the World Court was established nothing has occured but continuing crises. A person may say that there have always been wars. This is true, but never on such a global scale. During World Wars I and II, it did not matter where you were in the world, you knew that the war was going on. The entire world was affected. Now there are smaller scale wars, but still every country jumps in and does its part. It is no longer one country against another. There are many countries supporting both sides politically, financially, and militarily. Jesus’ words are truer than tomorrow’s newspaper, “for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Matthew 24:7.
Are there widespread famines in the world today? Without a doubt! In a day and age when we have the most technological advances in the agricultural fields, still not everyone has enough to eat. It is rare in the industrialized countries to find very many that are starving, but they are there. There are homes in this country where only one small meal a day is available! The problem is most graphically seen when visiting the third world countries in Africa and other areas. There children and adults dig through trash heaps to find food and other sell-able items in order to survive. One man had only a handful of rice to feed his five children for the entire day.
In this country, we can forget what the rest of the world is struggling with and think that Jesus missed the mark, but seeing the conditions in other countries rapidly opens your eyes to the truth of Jesus’ words.
The World Bank reported in April, 2010, that more than one billion people go hungry every day, and over 650 million children do not get enough food to fully develop mentally and physically. When Jesus spoke those words, there were not even one billion people alive; but now there are more than that without enough food. According to the World Bank vice-president, Ismail Serageldin, “Some 40,000 hunger-related deaths occur every day, mostly in rural regions.” (taken from “The Family Webpage” at www.thefamily.org.) In the early spring of 2000, emergency plans were put in operation to save the entire country of Ethiopia from starvation, but not all were saved. Are Jesus’ words true today? Without a doubt!
Pestilences. There has been a greater surge of incurable diseases in our age of enlightened medicine than has previously been known. All know someone who has died from cancer or some other deadly disease. AIDS continues to spread through the world without an antidote. Then there are the new, rare diseases such as mad cow disease, Ebola, and others. Even though there is more medical knowledge than in any other period in human history, the pestilences keep bombarding society with no sign of relenting.
Is the earth shaking more than it used to? Some will deny it, but the record books surely do not. The 1997 World Almanac and Book of Facts, gives a list of major earthquakes on record: 1500’s—2, 1600’s—2, 1700’s—6, 1800’s—7, 1900’s—81. Do you see a pattern? It could be argued that there are more accurate records kept now and that is why it appears to rise so drastically. Possibly, but even in the 1900’s, when there were modern records and seismographs, the pattern of a rising number of earthquakes continued. Between 1900 and 1930 there were two to three major earthquakes per decade. Between 1930 and 1970 there were four to eight earthquakes per decade. Then from 1970 to the 1990’s there were ten to thirty per decade, but then, in 1999 alone, there were twenty major earthquakes of seven or above on the Richter Scale. From 2000 through 2010 there were 166 of magnitude 7.0 or greater.(See USGS National Earthquake Information Center Web Page.) As Jesus said two thousand years ago, “and earthquakes, in divers places.” Matthew 24:7.
The angel told Daniel, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Daniel 12:4. The angel said that in the time of the end, just preceding the end of the world, many would be running from here to there. Is there a great deal of travel going on today? When else in the history of this world could the common person fly to the other side of the world for a week and then fly back? In Daniel’s day, they barely knew there was anything else out there than their immediate neighborhood. The fastest way to get anywhere was by chariot or horseback. We have come a long way since then. The airports are bustling, the roads are crammed—men are running here and there. Not a person alive today can deny that knowledge has increased. There has been the biggest explosion of knowledge, information, and communication ever in recent years. Yes, the angel accurately described today’s condition, as well.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” II Timothy 3:1-5.
Are perilous times here? Is it safe to walk down the street late at night? Is it even safe to send your children to school? Or will their school be the next Columbine? The Bible predicted society’s condition two thousand years before it happened.
There has been no other time like the time in which we now live. There has never been another time in which all of the signs pointing forward to the end of the world have been fulfilled. There may have been a sign here or there that happened, but never have all of the signs taken place at once. To every thinking mind, the only conclusion that we can come to is that this world cannot last much longer. This world is polluted, militarized, diseased, and shaking apart. According to God’s word, the end of the world is near. The end will be the greatest of all days for the faithful and obedient, but the most terrifying to the disobedient.
The Final Signs
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:29, 30. While all of the signs clearly point to the fact that Jesus is so soon to come, there are a few specific signs that were given to be the final signs of Jesus’ soon coming. When we look at these signs that happened over one-hundred and fifty years ago and compare them with history, we find that we are living on borrowed time!
These signs are so important that they are mentioned many times throughout the Bible. All of the synoptic gospels record these signs. (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24, 25; Luke 21:25.) Joel saw these great signs. “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” Joel 2:31.
John saw these same signs. “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” Revelation 6:12, 13.
By comparing the different references where these signs are mentioned, it can be seen that there were four major events to take place, and in this order:
- a great earthquake,
- sun shall be darkened,
- the moon will not give its light and will be turned into blood, and
- the stars will fall from heaven.
Obviously, these signs are major events that would arrest the attention of the entire world. They are harbingers of the time that the Bible calls the “time of the end” or the “last days.” Have these last great final signs been fulfilled? Or are we still to look for them in the future?
A Great Earthquake
In vision, John had seen that the first of these last great final signs would be an earthquake, “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake.” Revelation 6:12. Has there been a great earthquake that shook the earth as a harbinger of the end of the world? Indeed, there has. Jesus had said “Immediately after the tribulation of those days.” As soon as the persecution of the Dark Ages had stopped (See Steps to Life’s booklet Surviving the Great Tribulation), the Lord shook the world with an earthquake like never before to wake the world up to the fact that the end of the world was near. It happened on November 1, 1755. The epicenter was in Lisbon, Portugal, but the effect of the earthquake was felt in the three continents of Europe, Africa, and North America. The area in which the quake was felt covered four million square miles. Not only was it one of the most far reaching earthquakes, but it was also one of the most destructive earthquakes ever recorded.
In Lisbon itself, the destruction was the greatest. It is estimated that of the one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants of Lisbon, ninety thousand lost their lives. According to the Encyclopedia Americana, the earthquake caused every church and convent to fall, along with almost all of the large public buildings and more than one fourth of all of the houses.
“Fires broke out in different quarters, and raged with such violence for the space of nearly three days, that the city was completely desolated. The earthquake happened on a holy day, when the churches and convents were full of people, very few of whom escaped.” Encyclopedia Americana, “Lisbon,” 1831 edition.
The Dark Day
The mammoth earthquake was the first of the final signs, but it was just the beginning. The signs continued to unfold. It was May 19, 1780, when a most mysterious and unexplainable phenomenon brought terror to the hearts of many. R. M. Devens in Our First Century wrote,
“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.” Our First Century, 89. Even to our present day it is unexplainable. On May 19, 1997, the Wichita Eagle mentioned this most mysterious and unexplainable day, stating that to our present day it is still unaccounted for. An eyewitness to this startling day recorded, “In the morning the sun rose clear, but was soon overcast. The clouds became lowery, and from them, black and ominous, as they soon appeared, lightning flashed, thunder rolled, and a little rain fell. Toward nine o’clock, the clouds became thinner, and assumed a brassy or coppery appearance, and earth, rocks, trees, buildings, water, and persons were changed by this strange, unearthly light. A few minutes later, a heavy black cloud spread over the entire sky except a narrow rim at the horizon, and it was as dark as it usually is at nine o’clock on a summer evening…
“Fear, anxiety, and awe gradually filled the minds of the people. Women stood at the door, looking out upon the dark landscape; men returned from their labor in the fields; the carpenter left his tools, the blacksmith his forge, the tradesman his counter. Schools were dismissed, and tremblingly the children fled homeward. Travelers put up at the nearest farmhouse. ‘What is coming?’ queried every lip and heart. It seemed as if a hurricane was about to dash across the land, or as if it was the day of the consummation of all things.
“Candles were used; and hearth fires shone as brightly as on a moonless evening in autumn… Fowls retired to their roosts and went to sleep, cattle gathered at the pasture bars and lowed, frogs peeped, birds sang their evening songs, and bats flew about. But the human knew that night had not come…” The Essex Antiquarian, April, 1899, vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 53, 54.
None knew the cause of that strange day, except those who had studied Bible prophecy. Those who were students of prophecy knew exactly what it was. It was a harbinger that the end of the world was nearing.
The Bloody Moon
The next of the major signs was recorded in two different ways, but both of them occurred on the same night. “And the moon shall not give her light.” Matthew 24:29, “And the moon became as blood.” Revelation 6:12. On the very same night of the dark day, the moon initially did not shine but then came out shining red as blood. Let the historians speak.
“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.)
Another who beheld the terrifying scene said,
“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.)
Then, about midnight when the moon appeared, it was red as blood. Thus the third of the great signs was also fulfilled.
The Falling of the Stars
The last of the final signs took place on November 13, 1833.
“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.” “Its sublimity and awful beauty still linger in many minds… Never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth; east, west, north, and south, it was the same. In a word, the whole heavens seemed in motion… The display, as described in Professor Silliman’s Journal, was seen all over North America… From two o’clock until broad daylight, the sky being perfectly serene and cloudless, an incessant play of dazzlingly brilliant luminosities was kept up in the whole heavens.”—R. M. Devens, American Progress; or, The Great Events of the Greatest Century, ch. 28, pars. 1-5.
Once again those who understood prophecy knew exactly what was happening, but those who did not know prophecy were scared to death.
Are You Ready?
The last of the final signs occurred over one hundred and fifty years ago; how much time do we have left now? These great signs announced to all the world that the time of the end had begun, and now we have been living in the time of the end for two hundred years. Our time has almost run out. Jesus has been waiting. Perhaps He has been waiting for you. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9.
The Lord has extended the time for all of these years in order to save all that He possibly can, but soon that time will come to a close. Soon He will “finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness.” Romans 9:28. The final signs have all taken place and the next event will be the coming of our Lord and Savior in the clouds of glory. Are you ready?
The end of the world is soon to come. It will not come from a nuclear fall out or environmental destruction, although those things could happen. The real end of the world will happen when Jesus returns—to be admired in those who believe (II Thessalonians 1:10) and to execute God’s judgment and wrath upon those who do not believe. What if it were today? Which group would you be in? We are living on borrowed time. The end could have come many years ago, but perhaps the Lord looked down and saw you. Will you accept His call? (II Thessalonians 1:10) and to execute God’s judgment and wrath upon those who do not believe. What if it were today? Which group would you be in? We are living on borrowed time. The end could have come many years ago, but perhaps the Lord looked down and saw you. Will you accept His call?
Three times in the very last chapter of the Bible, Jesus repeated, “I come quickly.” (Revelation 22:7, 12, 20.) This thrice repeated statement is a great promise to those who are ready, but to the vast majority of the world and even to the church, it is a grave warning. How is it for you? Are you ready for Jesus to come? Are you ready to meet Him in the clouds of glory? Is your life such that you will be able to stand in that day? When the wicked are overwhelmed by the majesty of Jesus coming, they are led to exclaim, “For the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” Revelation 6:17. That is the question that we must be pondering now, for if we do not ponder it well now, we will cry it with terror then.
It is only those who are able to stand before our Almighty God who shall rise to meet Him with joy. The same question is asked in the Old Testament, but the definite answer is given this time. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up His soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.” Psalm 24:3, 4. Those only who have pure hands and hearts will be able to stand before the King of kings and Lord of lords at the end of the world.
Do you have clean hands and a pure heart? Have your hands and your heart been washed in the blood of the Lamb? Have you allowed Him to cleanse you from all sin? “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27.
Christ gave His life for you. Have you been sanctified and cleansed by Him? Can He present you without spot or blemish unto the Father? Have you been washed from your sins by the water of the Word? Those who will stand in that day will have had this precious experience. Are you prepared? The end of the world is coming. That is not the question. The question is, Will you be ready for the end of the world? Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming quickly.” He is coming and it will not be very long, now. He has waited for two thousand years, but soon it will be too late. Soon the door of mercy will be shut, and He will come forth to reward and make war. Will you be rewarded or smitten by the brightness of His coming? We are living in the very last days. No longer are we just in the time of the end, but we are now at the end of the time of the end. We are in the last of the last days. The signs have all been fulfilled. The final harbingers were fulfilled over one hundred and fifty years ago. It is not much longer now. We are almost home, but are you ready to go home?
It will come as the biggest surprise to the millions of this world, but we are exhorted, “But, ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” I Thessalonians 5:4. You are not in darkness, you know that it is coming, but what use you make of this knowledge, only you can determine. A choice must be made by each one of us that we are going to surrender fully to the Lord so that we can be ready for that great day—a day of joy and gladness for those who are ready, but a day of wailing and gnashing of teeth for the vast multitudes who did not prepare. Will that eternal smile spread across your face or will the most mournful wails come from your lips? It will be one or the other. “Choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15.
All emphasis the authors unless otherwise stated.
All texts from the King James Version unless otherwise noted.
- Daniel & Revelation, by Uriah Smith, Review & Herald Publishing
- The Great Controversy, Ellen G. White, 1911.
- His Mighty Love, Dr. Ralph Larson, Teach Services, 1995.
- The Reign of Christ on Earth: or, The Voice of the Church in All Ages, by Daniel T. Taylor
- A Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, F. Wilbur Gingrich & Frederick W. Danker, University of Chicago Press, 1983.
- USGS National Earthquake Information Center Web Page
- The 1997 World Almanac and Book of Facts World-Wide Bible Lectures, Fordyce W. Detamore.