|Chapter 24: THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Seventh-day Adventists Believe...
The second coming of Christ is the blessed hope of the
church, the grand climax of the gospel. The Saviour's coming
will be literal, personal, visible, and worldwide. When He
returns, the righteous dead will be resurrected, and
together with the righteous living will be glorified and
taken to heaven, but the unrighteous will die. The almost
complete fulfillment of most lines of prophecy, together
with the present condition of the world, indicates that
Christ's coming is imminent. The time of that event has not
been revealed, and we are therefore exhorted to be ready at
all times.--Fundamental Beliefs, 24.
THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Mommy," a little one confided at bedtime, "I'm so lonely
for my friend Jesus. When is He going to come?"
That child could hardly know that her little heart's
desire has been the longing of the ages. The final words of
the Bible give promise of a soon return: "`Surely I am
coming quickly.'" And John the revelator, the loyal
companion of Jesus, adds, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
To see Jesus! To unite forever with Him who loves us more
than we can imagine! To have an end of all earthly
suffering! To enjoy eternity with resurrected loved ones now
at rest! No wonder that since Christ's ascension His friends
have looked forward to that day.
One day He will come, though even to the saints His
coming will be an overwhelming surprise--for all slumber and
sleep in their long wait (Matt. 25:5). At "midnight," in
earth's darkest hour, God will manifest His power to deliver
His people. Scripture describes the events: "A loud voice"
comes out of the "temple of heaven, from the throne, saying,
`It is done!'" This voice shakes the earth, causing such "a
mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men
were on the earth" (Rev. 16:17,18). The mountains shake,
rocks are scattered everywhere, and the whole earth heaves
like the waves of the ocean. Its surface breaks up "and the
cities of the nations fell....Then every island fled away,
and the mountains were not found" (verses 19,20). "The sky
receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain
and island was moved out of its place" (Rev. 6:14).
Despite the chaos descending upon the physical world,
God's people take courage as they see "`the sign of the Son
of Man'" (Matt. 24:30). As He descends on the clouds of
heaven, every eye sees the Prince of life. He comes, this
time, not as a man of sorrows, but as victor and conqueror
to claim His own. In place of the crown of thorns, He wears
a crown of glory, and "on His robe and on His thigh a name
written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:12, 16).
At His coming great despair grips those who have refused
to acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and Lord, and have rejected
the claim of His law on their lives. Nothing makes the
rejecters of His grace so aware of their guilt as that voice
that had pleaded so patiently, "`"Turn, turn from your evil
ways! For why should you die?"'" (Eze. 33:11). "And the
kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the
commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man,
hid themselves in the caves 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 who sits on the throne and
from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath
has come, and who is able to stand?'" (Rev. 6:15-17).
But the joy of those who have long looked for Him
overshadows the despair of the wicked. The coming of the
Redeemer brings to its glorious climax the history of God's
people; it is the moment of their deliverance. With
thrilling adoration they cry out: "`Behold, 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'" (Isa. 25:9).
As Jesus draws near, He calls His sleeping saints from
the graves and commissions His angels to "`gather together
His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the
other'" (Matt. 24:31). Around the world the righteous dead
hear His voice and rise from their graves--glad moment!
Then the living righteous are changed "in a moment, in
the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor. 15:52). Glorified and given
immortality, together with the resurrected saints they are
caught up to meet their Lord in the air to remain with Him
forever (1 Thess. 4:16,17).
The Certainty of Christ's Return
The apostles and early Christians considered Christ's
return "the blessed hope" (Titus 2:13; cf. Heb. 9:28). They
expected all the prophecies and promises of Scripture to be
fulfilled at the Second Advent (see 2 Peter 3:13; cf. Isa.
65:17), for it is the very goal of the Christian pilgrimage.
All who love Christ look forward eagerly to the day when
they will be able to share face-to-face fellowship with
Him--and with the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the angels.
The Testimony of Scripture
The certainty of the Second Advent is rooted in the
trustworthiness of the Scripture. Just before His death
Jesus told His disciples that He would be returning to His
Father to prepare a place for them. But He promised, "`I
will come again'" (John 14:3).
As Christ's first coming to this earth had been
prophesied, so His second coming is also foretold through
all of Scripture. Even before the Flood God told Enoch that
it was Christ's coming in glory that would end sin. He
prophesied, "`Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of
His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who
are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they
have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh
things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him'"
One thousand years before Christ, the psalmist spoke of
the Lord's coming to gather His people, saying, "Our God
shall come, and shall not keep silent; a fire shall devour
before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous all around Him.
He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth,
that He may judge His people: `Gather My saints together to
Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice'"
Christ's disciples rejoiced in the promise of His return.
Amid all the difficulties they encountered, the assurance
this promise brought never failed to renew their courage and
strength. Their Master was coming back to take them to His
The Guarantee the First Advent Provides
The Second Advent is closely tied to Christ's first
advent. If Christ had not come the first time and won a
decisive victory over sin and Satan (Col. 2:15), then we
would have no reason to believe that He will eventually come
to end Satan's dominion of this world and to restore it to
its original perfection. But since we have the evidence that
He "appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself,"
we have reason to believe that He "will appear a second
time, apart from sin, for salvation" (Heb. 9:26,28).
Christ's Heavenly Ministry
Christ's revelation to John makes it clear that the
heavenly sanctuary is central to the plan of salvation (Rev.
1:12,13; 3:12; 4:1-5; 5:8; 7:15; 8:3; 11:1,19; 14:15,17;
15:5,6,8; 16:1,17). The prophecies that indicate that He has
begun His final ministry on behalf of sinners add to the
assurance that soon He will return to take His people home
(see chapter 23 of this book). The confidence that Christ is
actively working to bring to consummation the redemption
already accomplished at the cross has brought great
encouragement to Christians who are looking forward to His
The Manner of Christ's Return
As Christ spoke about the signs that would indicate that
His coming was near, He also indicated concern that His
people not be deceived by false claims. He warned that
before the Second Advent "`false christs and false prophets
will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to
deceive, if possible, even the elect.'" He said, "`If anyone
says to you, "Look, here is the Christ!" or "There!" do not
believe it'" (Matt. 24:24, 23). Forewarned is forearmed. To
enable believers to distinguish between the genuine event
and a false coming, several Biblical passages reveal details
of the manner in which Christ will return.
A Literal and Personal Return
When Jesus ascended in a cloud, two angels addressed the
disciples, who were still gazing up after their departed
Lord: "`Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into
heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into
heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into
heaven'" (Acts 1:11).
In other words, they said that the same Lord who had just
left them--a personal, flesh-and-blood being, not some
spirit entity (Luke 24:36-43)--would return to earth. And
His Second Advent would be as literal and personal as His
A Visible Return
Christ's coming will not be an inward, invisible
experience but a real meeting with a visible Person. Leaving
no room whatsoever for doubt as to the visibility of His
return, Jesus warned His disciples against being taken in by
a secret second coming by comparing His return to the
brilliance of lightning (Matt. 24:27).
Scripture clearly states that the righteous and the
wicked will simultaneously witness His coming. John wrote,
"Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see
Him" (Rev. 1:7), and Christ noted the response of the
wicked: "`All the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they
will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with
power and great glory'" (Matt. 24:30).
An Audible Return
Adding to the picture of a universal awareness of
Christ's return is the Biblical assertion that His coming
will be made known by sound as well as sight: "The Lord
Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the
voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God"
(1 Thess. 4:16). The "`great sound of a trumpet'"
(Matt. 24:31) accompanies the gathering of His people.
There is no secrecy here.
A Glorious Return
When Christ returns, He comes as a conqueror, with power
and "`in the glory of His Father with His angels'" (Matt.
16:27). John the revelator portrays the glory of Christ's
return in a most dramatic way. He pictures Christ riding on
a white horse and leading the innumerable armies of heaven.
The supernatural splendor of the glorified Christ is
apparent (Rev. 19:11-16).
A Sudden, Unexpected Return
Christian believers, longing and looking for Christ's
return, will be aware when it draws near (1 Thess. 5:4-6).
But for the inhabitants of the world in general, Paul wrote,
"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" (1 Thess. 5:2,3; cf. Matt. 24:43).
Some have concluded that Paul's comparison of Christ's
coming to that of a thief indicates that He will come in
some secret, invisible manner. However, such a view
contradicts the Biblical picture of Christ's return in glory
and splendor in view of everyone (Rev. 1:7). Paul's point is
not that Christ's coming is secret, but that, for the
worldly minded, it is as unexpected as that of a thief.
Christ makes the same point by comparing His coming with
the unexpected destruction of the antediluvian world by the
Flood. "`For as in the days before the flood, people were
eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to
the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about
what would happen until the flood came and took them all
away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of
Man'" (Matt. 24:38,39, NIV). Though Noah had preached for
many years about a coming flood, it took most people by
surprise. There were two classes of people living. One class
believed Noah's word and went into the ark and was saved,
the other chose to stay outside the ark and the "`flood came
and took them all away'" (Matt. 24:39).
A Cataclysmic Event
Like the simile of the Flood, Nebuchadnezzar's dream of
the metal image depicts the cataclysmic manner in which
Christ will establish His kingdom of glory (see chapter 4 of
this book). Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image whose "`head
was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly
and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of
iron and partly of clay.'" Then "`a stone was cut out
without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron
and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay,
the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together,
and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the
wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found.
And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain
and filled the whole earth'" (Dan. 2:32-35).
Through this dream God gave Nebuchadnezzar a synopsis of
world history. Between his day and the establishment of
Christ's everlasting kingdom (the stone), four major
kingdoms or empires and then a conglomeration of weak and
strong nations would consecutively occupy the world's stage.
Ever since the days of Christ interpreters have
identified the empires as Babylon (605-539 B.C.),
Medo-Persia (539-331 B.C.), Greece (331-168 B.C.), and Rome
(168 B.C.-A.D. 476).(*1) As prophesied, no other empire
succeeded Rome. During the fourth and fifth centuries A.D.
it broke into a number of smaller kingdoms that later became
the nations of Europe. Through the centuries, powerful
rulers--Charlemagne, Charles V, Napoleon, Kaiser Wilhelm,
and Hitler--have tried to establish another world empire.
Each failed, just as the prophecy said: "`They will not
adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay'"
Finally, the dream focuses on the dramatic climax: the
setting up of God's everlasting kingdom. The stone cut out
without hands represents Christ's kingdom of glory (Dan.
7:14; Rev. 11:15), which will be established without human
effort at the Second Advent.
Christ's kingdom is not to exist simultaneously with any
human empire. When He was on earth during the sway of the
Roman Empire, the stone kingdom that crushes all nations had
not yet come. Only after the phase of the iron and clay
feet, the period of the divided nations, would it arrive. It
is to be set up at the Second Advent when Christ separates
the righteous from the wicked (Matt. 25:31-34).
When it comes, this stone or kingdom will strike the
"`image on its feet of iron and clay'" and "`it shall break
in pieces and consume all these kingdoms,'" leaving not a
trace of them (Dan. 2:34,44,35). Indeed, the Second Advent
is an earth-shaking event.
The Second Advent and the Human Race
Christ's second advent will touch both of the great
divisions of humanity--those who have accepted Him and the
salvation He brings, and those who have turned from Him.
The Gathering of the Elect
An important aspect of the establishment of Christ's
eternal kingdom is the gathering of all the redeemed
(Matt. 24:31; 25:32-34; Mark 13:27) to the heavenly home
Christ has prepared (John 14:3).
When a head of state visits another country, only a few
persons can be part of the welcoming party. But when Christ
comes, every believer who has ever lived, regardless of age,
gender, education, economic status, or race, will
participate in the grand Advent celebration. Two events make
possible this universal gathering: the resurrection of the
righteous dead and the translation of the living saints.
1. The resurrection of the dead in Christ.
At the sound of the trumpet announcing Christ's return,
the righteous dead will be raised incorruptible and immortal
(1 Cor. 15:52,53). At that moment the "dead in Christ will
rise first" (1 Thess. 4:16). In other words, they are raised
before the living righteous are caught up to be with the
Resurrected ones reunite with those who sorrowed at their
departure. Now they exult, "O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?" (1 Cor. 15:55, KJV).
It is not the diseased, aged, mutilated bodies that went
down into the grave that come up in the resurrection, but
new, immortal, perfect bodies, no longer marked by the sin
that caused their decay. The resurrected saints experience
the completion of Christ's work of restoration, reflecting
the perfect image of God in mind, soul, and body
(1 Cor. 15:42-54; see chapter 25 of this book).
2. The translation of the living believers.
When the righteous dead are resurrected, the righteous
who are living on the earth at the Second Coming will be
changed. "For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and
this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Cor. 15:53).
At Christ's return no group of believers takes precedence
over any other believers. Paul reveals that the living and
transformed believers "shall be caught up together with them
[the resurrected believers] in the clouds to meet the Lord
in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord"
(1 Thess. 4:17; cf. Heb. 11:39,40). So all the believers
will be present at the grand Advent gathering, both the
resurrected saints of all ages and those who are alive at
The Death of the Unbelievers
To the saved the Second Advent is a time of joy and
exhilaration, but to the lost it will be a time of
devastating terror. They have resisted Christ's love and His
invitations to salvation so long that they have become
ensnared in deceptive delusions (see 2 Thess. 2:9-12; Rom.
1:28-32). When they see the One they have rejected coming as
King of kings and Lord of lords, they know the hour of their
doom has struck. Overwhelmed with terror and despair, they
call upon the inanimate creation to shelter them
At this time God will destroy Babylon, the union of all
apostate religions. "`She will be utterly burned with fire'"
(Rev. 18:8). The leader of this confederation--the mystery
of iniquity, the lawless one--"the Lord will consume with
the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of
His coming" (2 Thess. 2:8). The powers responsible for
enforcing the mark of the beast (see chapter 12) will be
cast "into the lake of fire burning with brimstone." And the
rest of the wicked will be "killed with the sword which
proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse"--Jesus
Christ the Lord (Rev. 19:20,21).
The Signs of Christ's Soon Return
The Scriptures not only reveal the manner and object of
Christ's coming, they also describe the signs that tell of
the nearness of this climactic event. The first signs
announcing the Second Advent took place more than 1700 years
after Christ's ascension, and others have followed,
contributing to the evidence that His return is very near.
Signs in the Natural World
Christ predicted that there would "`be signs in the sun,
in the moon, and in the stars'" (Luke 21:25), specifying
that "`the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give
its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in
heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man
coming in the clouds with great power and glory'" (Mark
13:24-26). In addition, John saw that a great earthquake
would precede the signs in the heavens (Rev. 6:12). All of
these signs would mark the end of the 1260 years of
persecution (see chapter 12).
1. The witness of the earth.
In fulfillment of this prophecy "the largest known
earthquake,"(*2) occurred on November 1, 1755. Known as the
Lisbon earthquake, its effects were observed in Europe,
Africa, and America, covering an area of about 4 million
square miles. Its destruction centered on Lisbon, Portugal,
where in a matter of minutes it leveled public and
residential buildings, causing scores of thousands of
While the earthquake's physical effects were large, its
impact on the thought of the time was just as significant.
Many living then recognized it as a prophetic sign of the
end(*4) and began to give serious consideration to the
judgment of God and the last days. The Lisbon earthquake
gave an impetus to the study of prophecy.
2. The witness of the sun and moon.
Twenty-five years later the next sign mentioned in
prophecy took place--the darkening of the sun and moon.
Christ had pointed out the time of the fulfillment of this
sign, noting that it was to follow the great tribulation,
the 1260 years of papal persecution spoken of elsewhere in
Scripture (Matt. 24:29; see chapter 12 of this book). But
Christ said that the tribulation that was to precede these
signs would be shortened (Matt. 24:21,22). Through the
influence of the Reformation and the movements that grew out
of it, the papal persecution was indeed shortened, so that
by the middle of the eighteenth century it had almost wholly
In fulfillment of this prophecy, on May 19, 1780, an
extraordinary darkness descended upon the northeastern part
of the North American continent.(*5)
Recalling this event, Timothy Dwight, president of Yale
University, said, "The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable
day. Candles were lighted in many houses; the birds were
silent and disappeared, and the fowls retired to roost....A
very general opinion prevailed, that the day of judgment was
Samuel Williams of Harvard reported that the darkness
"approached with the clouds from the southwest `between the
hours of 10:00 and 11:00 A.M., and continued until the
middle of the next night,' varying in degree and duration in
different localities. In some places `persons could not see
to read common print in the open air.'"(*7) In Samuel
Tenny's opinion "the darkness of the following evening was
probably as gross as ever has been observed since the
Almighty fiat gave birth to light....If every luminous body
in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable shades, or
struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been
At 9:00 that night a full moon rose, but the darkness
persisted until after midnight. When the moon became
visible, it had the appearance of blood.
John the revelator had prophesied the extraordinary
events of that day. After the earthquake, he wrote, the sun
would become "black as sackcloth of hair, and the
moon...like blood" (Rev. 6:12).
3. The witness of the stars.
Both Christ and John had also spoken about a falling of
the stars that would indicate that Christ's coming was near
(Rev. 6:13; cf. Matt. 24:29). The great meteoric shower of
November 13, 1833--the most extensive display of falling
stars on record--fulfilled this prophecy. It was estimated
that a single observer could see an average of 60,000
meteors per hour.(*9) It was seen from Canada to Mexico and
from the mid-Atlantic to the Pacific,(*10) many Christians
recognizing in it the fulfillment of the Bible
An eyewitness said that "there was scarcely a space in
the firmament which was not filled at every instant with
these falling stars, nor on it, could you in general
perceive any particular difference, in appearance; still at
times they would shower down in groups--calling to mind the
`fig tree, casting her untimely figs when shaken by a mighty
Christ gave these signs to alert Christians to the
nearness of His coming so that they might rejoice in their
expectation and be fully prepared for it. "`Now when these
things begin to happen,'" He said, "`look up and lift up
your heads, because your redemption draws near.'" He added,
"`Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are
already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer
is now near. So you, likewise, when you see these things
happening, know that the kingdom of God is near'"
This unique witness of earth, sun, moon, and stars, which
came in the precise sequence and at the time Christ had
predicted, directed the attention of many toward the
prophecies of the Second Advent.
Signs in the Religious World
Scripture predicts that a number of significant signs in
the religious world will mark the time just preceding
1. A great religious awakening.
The book of Revelation reveals the rise of a great,
worldwide religious movement before the Second Advent. In
John's vision, an angel heralding Christ's return symbolized
this movement: "I saw an angel flying in the midst of heaven
having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell
on the earth and to every nation, tribe, tongue, and
people--saying with a loud voice, `Fear God and give glory
to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship
Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of
water'" (Rev. 14:6,7).
The message itself indicates when it is to be proclaimed.
The everlasting gospel has been preached throughout all
ages. But this message, emphasizing the judgment aspect of
the gospel, could only be proclaimed in the time of the end,
for it warns that the "hour of His judgment has come."
The book of Daniel informs us that in the time of the end
its prophecies would be unsealed (Dan. 12:4). At that time
people would understand its mysteries. The unsealing took
place as the 1260-year period of papal dominance came to its
end with the captivity of the pope in 1798. The combination
of the exile of the pope and the signs in the natural world
led many Christians to study the prophecies about the events
leading to the Second Advent, which resulted in a new depth
of understanding of these prophecies.
This focus on the Second Advent also brought about a
worldwide revival of the Advent hope. As the Reformation
sprang up independently in various countries throughout the
Christian world, so did the Advent movement. The worldwide
nature of this movement is one of the clearest signs that
Christ's return is drawing near. As John the Baptist
prepared the way for Christ's first advent, so the Advent
movement is preparing the way for His second
advent--proclaiming the message of Revelation 14;6-12, God's
final call to get ready for the glorious return of the
Saviour (see chapters 12 and 23 of this book).(*13)
2. Preaching of the Gospel.
God "`has appointed a day on which He will judge the
world in righteousness'" (Acts 17:31). In warning us of that
day, Christ did not say that it would come when all the
world is converted, but that the "`gospel of the kingdom
will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the
nations, and then the end will come'" (Matt. 24:14). Thus
Peter encourages believers to be "looking for and hastening
the coming of the day of God" (2 Peter 3:12).
Statistics on the translation and distribution of the
Bible in this century reveal the growth of the gospel
witness. In 1900, the Bible was available in 537 languages.
By 1980, it had been translated, in full or in part, into
1,811 languages, representing nearly 96 percent of the world
population. Similarly, the annual distribution of the
Scriptures has risen from 5.4 million Bibles in 1900 to
36.8 million Bibles and nearly half a billion Bible portions
In addition, Christianity now has at its disposal an
unprecedented variety of resources for use in its mission:
service agencies, educational and medical institutions,
national and foreign workers, radio and television
broadcasting, and impressive financial means. Today,
powerful shortwave radio stations can beam the gospel to
practically every country around the globe. Used under the
guidance of the Holy Spirit, these unparalleled resources
make realistic the goal of evangelizing the world in our
Seventh-day Adventists, with a membership that represents
about 700 languages and 1,000 dialects, are proclaiming the
gospel in 190 countries. Almost 90 percent of these members
live outside of North America. Believing that medical and
educational work play essential roles in fulfilling the
gospel commission, we operate nearly 600 hospitals, nursing
homes, clinics and dispensaries, 19 medical launches,
27 health food factories, 86 colleges and universities,
834 secondary schools, 4,166 elementary schools, 125 Bible
correspondence schools, and 33 language institutes. Our
51 publishing houses produce literature in 190 languages and
our shortwave radio stations broadcast to approximately
75 percent of the world population. The Holy Spirit has
abundantly blessed our mission thrust.
3. Religious Decline.
The widespread proclamation of the gospel does not
necessarily mean a massive growth in genuine Christianity.
Instead, the Scriptures predict a decline of true
spirituality toward the end of time. Paul said that "in the
last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers
of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud,
blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control,
brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty,
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form
of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim. 3:1-5).
So today, love of self, material things, and the world
has supplanted the Spirit of Christ in many hearts. People
no longer allow God's principles and His laws to direct
their lives; lawlessness has taken over. "`And because
lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold'"
4. A Resurgence of the Papacy.
According to Biblical prophecy, at the end of the 1260
years the papacy would receive "a deadly wound" but it would
not die (see chapter 12 of this book). Scripture reveals
that this deadly wound would heal. The papacy would
experience a great renewal of influence and respect--"all
the world marveled and followed the beast" (Rev. 13:3).
Already today many view the pope as the moral leader of the
To a large extent, the papacy's rising influence has come
as Christians have substituted traditions, human standards,
and science for the authority of the Bible. In doing so,
they have become vulnerable to "the lawless one," who works
"with all power, signs, and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9).
Satan and his instruments will bring about a confederation
of evil, symbolized by the unholy trinity of the dragon, the
beast, and the false prophet, that will deceive the world
(Rev. 16:13,14; cf. 13:13,14). Only those whose guide is the
Bible and who "keep the commandments of God and the faith of
Jesus" (Rev. 14:12) can successfully resist the overwhelming
deception this confederation brings.
5. Decline of Religious Freedom.
The revival of the papacy will affect Christianity
dramatically. The religious liberty obtained at great cost,
guaranteed by the separation between church and state, will
erode and finally be abolished. With the support of powerful
civil governments, this apostate power will attempt to force
its form of worship on all people. Everyone will have to
choose between loyalty to God and His commandments and
loyalty to the beast and his image (Rev. 14:6-12).
The pressure to conform will include economic coercion:
"No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the
name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Rev. 13:17).
Eventually those who refuse to go along will face a death
penalty (Rev. 13:15). During this final time of trouble God
will intervene for His people and deliver everyone whose
name is written in the book of life (Dan. 12:1; cf.
Rev. 3:5; 20:15).
Increase of Wickedness
The spiritual decline within Christianity and the revival
of the man of lawlessness have led to a growing neglect of
God's law in the church and in the lives of believers. Many
have come to believe that Christ has abolished the law and
that Christians are no longer obliged to observe it. This
disregard of God's law has led to an increase in crime and
1. Surge in world crime.
The disrespect for God's law current within much of
Christianity has contributed to modern society's contempt
for law and order. Throughout the world, crime is
skyrocketing out of control. A report filed by
correspondents from several world capitals stated: "Just as
in the United States, crime is on the rise in almost every
country around the world." "From London to Moscow to
Johannesburg, crime is fast becoming a major menace that is
changing the way in which many people live."(*15)
2. Sexual revolution.
Disregard for God's law has also broken down the
restraints of modesty and purity, resulting in a surge of
immorality. Today sex is idolized and marketed through
films, television, video, songs, magazines, and
The sexual revolution has resulted in the shocking rise
of the rate of divorce, aberrations like "open marriage" or
mate swapping, the sexual abuse of children, an appalling
number of abortions, widespread homosexuality and
lesbianism, an epidemic of venereal diseases, and the
recently surfaced AIDS (acquired immune deficiency
Wars and Calamities
Before His return, Jesus said, "`Nation will rise against
nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be great
earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences;
and there will be fearful sights and great signs from
heaven'" (Luke 21:10,11; cf. Mark 13:7,8; Matt. 24:7). As
the end draws near and the conflict between the satanic and
divine forces intensifies, these calamities will also
intensify in severity and frequency, and find an
unprecedented fulfillment in our time.
Although wars have plagued humanity throughout history,
never before have they been so global and so destructive.
World War I and II caused more casualties and suffering than
all previous wars combined.(*16)
Many see the prospect of another worldwide conflict.
World War II did not eradicate war. Since it ended, there
have been some "140 conflicts fought with conventional
weapons, in which up to ten million people have died."(*17)
The threat of an all-out thermonuclear war hangs over our
world like the sword of Damocles.
2. Natural disasters.
Disasters appear to have increased significantly in
recent years. Recent cataclysms of earth and weather, coming
one on top of another, have caused some to wonder whether
nature has gone berserk--and if the world is experiencing
profound changes in climate and structure that will
intensify in the future.(*18)
Famines have occurred many times in the past, but they
have not occurred on the scale with which they have in this
century. Never before has the world had millions of people
suffering from either starvation or malnutrition.(*19) The
prospects for the future are hardly brighter. The
unprecedented extent of starvation clearly signals that
Christ's return is imminent.
Be Ready at All Times
The Bible repeatedly assures us that Jesus will return.
But will He come a year from now? Five years? Ten years?
Twenty years? No one knows for sure. Jesus Himself declared,
"`Of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels
of heaven, but My Father only'" (Matt. 24:36).
At the end of His earthly ministry Christ told the
parable of the ten virgins to illustrate the experience of
the church of the last days. The two classes of virgins
represent the two kinds of believers who profess to be
waiting for their Lord. They are called virgins because they
profess a pure faith. Their lamps represent the Word of God,
the oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit.
Superficially, these two groups appear alike; both go out
to meet the Bridegroom, both have oil in their lamps, and
their behavior doesn't seem to differ. They have all heard
the message of Christ's soon coming and are looking forward
to it. But then comes an apparent delay--their faith is to
Suddenly, at midnight--in the darkest hour of earth's
history--they hear the cry, "`"Behold, the bridegroom is
coming; go out to meet him!"'" (Matt. 25:6). Now the
difference between the two groups becomes apparent: some are
not ready to meet the Bridegroom. These "foolish" virgins
are not hypocrites; they respect the truth, the Word of God.
But they lack the oil--they have not been sealed by the Holy
Spirit (cf. Rev. 7:1-3). They have been content with
superficial work and have not fallen on Jesus Christ the
Rock. They have a form of godliness but are destitute of
When the Bridegroom comes, only those who are ready go in
with Him to the marriage celebration, and the door is shut.
Eventually the foolish virgins, who had gone to purchase
more will, return and call, "`"Lord, Lord, open to us!"'"
But the Bridegroom answers, "`"I do not know you"'"
How sad that when Christ returns to this earth, He will
have to speak these words to some whom He loves. He warned,
"`Many will say to Me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not
prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and
done many wonders in Your name?" And then I will declare to
them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice
lawlessness!"'" (Matt. 7:22,23).
Before the Flood, God sent Noah to alert the antediluvian
world to the coming destruction. In a similar way, God is
sending a threefold message of warning to prepare the world
for Christ's return (see Rev. 14:6-16).
All who accept God's message of mercy will rejoice at the
prospect of the Second Advent. Theirs is the assurance,
"`"Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper
of the Lamb!"'" (Rev. 19:9). Indeed, "to those who eagerly
wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin,
for salvation" (Heb. 9:28).
The Redeemer's return brings to a glorious climax the
history of God's people. It is the moment of their
deliverance, and with joy and adoration they cry out,
"`Behold this is our God; we have waited for Him...we will
be glad and rejoice in His salvation'" (Isa. 25:9).
1. Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 1, pp. 456,
894; vol. 2, pp. 528, 784; vol. 3, pp. 252, 744; vol. 4, pp.
396, 846. See also chapter 23 of this book.
2. G.I. Eiby, Earthquakes (New York, NY: Van Nostrand
Reinholdt Co., 1980), p. 164.
3. See e.g. Sir Charles Lyell, Principles of Geology
(Philadelphia: James Kay, Jun. && Brother,1837), vol. 1, pp.
416-419; "Lisbon," Encyclopaedia Americana, ed. Francis
Lieber (Philadelphia, PA: Carey and Lea, 1831), p. 10; W.H.
Hobbs, Earthquakes, (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1907),
p. 143; Thomas Hunter, An Historical Account of Earthquakes
Extracted from the Most Authentic Historians (Liverpool: R.
Williamson, 1756), pp. 54-90; cf. White, Great Controversy,
pp. 304, 305. Early reports mentioned 100,000 dead. Modern
encyclopedias may give 60,000.
4. See John Biddolf, A Poem on the Earthquake at Lisbon
(London: W. Owen, 1755), p. 9, quoted in Source Book, p.
358; Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 2, pp.
674-677. On February 6, 1756, the Anglican Church held a day
of fasting and humiliation in memory of this earthquake
(ibid). See also T.D. Kendrick, The Lisbon Earthquake
(London: Methuen && Co. Ltd., 1955), pp. 72-164.
5. Cf. White, Great Controversy, pp. 306-308.
6. Timothy Dwight, quoted in Connecticut Historical
Collections, compl. John W. Barber, 2nd ed. (New Haven, CT:
Durrie & Peck and J. W. Barber, 1836), p. 403; cited in
Source Book, p. 316.
7. Samuel Williams, "An Account of a Very Uncommon Darkness
in the State of New-England, May 19, 1780," in Memoirs of
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: to the End of the
Year 1783 (Boston, MA: Adams and Nourse, 1785), vol. 1, pp.
234, 235. Cf. Source Book, p. 315.
8. Letter of Samuel Tenny, Exeter, [NH], Dec. 1785, in
Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society for the
Year 1792 (Boston, MA: Belknap and Hall, 1792), vol. 1, p.
9. Peter M. Millman, "The Falling of the Stars," The
Telescope, 7 (May-June, 1940, p. 60). See also Froom,
Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4, p. 295.
10.Denison Olmsted, Letters on Astronomy, 1840 ed., pp.
348, 349, in Source Book, pp. 410, 411.
11.Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4, pp.
297-300; cf. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 333,334.
12.Phenomena as observed at Bowling Green, Missouri,
reported in the Salt River Journal, Nov. 20, 1780 as quoted
in American Journal of Science and Arts, ed. Benjamin
Silliman, 25 (1834): p. 382.
13.See Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4;
Damsteegt, Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message
14.David B. Barrett, ed., World Christian Encyclopedia. A
Comparative Study of Churches and Religions in the Modern
World A.D. 1900-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1982), p. 13.
15."Abroad, Too, Fear Grips the Cities," U.S. News && World
Report Feb. 23, 1981, p. 65.
16.David Singer and Melvin Small, The Wages of War:
1816-1965. A Statistical Handbook (New York, NY: John Wiley
&& Sons, 1972), pp. 66,67.
17.Margaret Thatcher as quoted in Ernest W. Lefever and E.
Stephen Hung, The Apocalypse Premise (Washington, D.C.:
Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1982), p. 394.
18.See Paul Recer, "Is Mother Nature Going Berserk?" U.S.
News && World Report Feb. 22, 1982, p. 66.
19.A special supplement to the United Nations publication
Development Forum, entitled "Facts on Food," (Nov. 1974)
said that "half the world population, 2,000 million is badly
nourished," cited in Ronald J. Sider, Rich Christians in an
Age of Hunger (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1977), p. 228,
n.4. Cf. p. 16.