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!"

(Rev. 22:20).

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'"

(Jude 14,15).

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'"

(Ps. 50:3-5).

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

Father's house!

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

return.

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

departure.

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'"

(Dan 2:43).

 

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

Lord.

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

Christ's return.

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

(Rev. 6:16,17).

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

deaths.(*3)

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

ceased.

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

at hand."(*6)

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

more complete."(*8)

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

prophecy.(*11)

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

wind.'"(*12)

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'"

(Luke 21:28-31).

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

Christ's return.

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

by 1980.(*14)

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

time.

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'"

(Matt. 24:12).

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

world.

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

immoral behavior.

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

advertisements.

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

syndrome).

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.

1. Wars.

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)

3. Famines.

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

be tested.

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

God's power.

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"'"

(Matt. 25:11-12)

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).

References

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.

97.

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

and Mission.

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.