Signs of Christ's Speedy Coming
We believe that the coming of our Lord is to be personal and Premillennial, also, that it is imminent. Let us remember the admonition that we must distinguish between the Rapture-His coming into the air to receive His saints, 1st Thessalonians 4, which may occur at any moment-and the Revelation - His coming down to the earth with His saints- which latter will not occur until after the preaching of the gospel as a witness, the gathering of Israel, in unbelief, the manifestation of Antichrist, and other prophesied events. Now we are to consider, what are the evidences for also believing that His coming, the Rapture, is near. Out of many reasons we will give seven, as follows:
I. The Prevalence of Travel and Knowledge.
"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.
A comparison of recent years with the present shows a most marvelous increase in both travel and knowledge. An incident is told of a woman in England who, after long consideration had decided on a journey. Friends gathered to assist her departure and walked by the conveyance a mile or more to bid her God-speed, but lo, her entire journey was only fifty miles.
Now, invention has chained the mighty forces of steam and electricity to palatial carriages by land and sea, so that one can go round the world, with comfort and ease, in sixty days.
Railways cover the earth and steamers track the sea like a mighty spider's web.
Our text says, Many shall run to and fro. In the year 1896 the number of passengers carried on the railroads in the United States was 535,120,756 and the mileage was 13,054,840,243, and in the whole world the railroad passengers were 2,384,000,000 and the mileage 28,677,000,000. Add to this the travel by steamers and private conveyance, the explorations into every conceivable corner of the earth, from the equator to the poles, and the enormous aggregate is surely a literal fulfillment of this sign of the end.
And knowledge shall be increased. The unprecedented educational facilities are a remarkable feature of our time. We have public schools for our youth, colleges and universities for higher education, and denominational schools for religious education.
The public press, with its ceaseless streams of news and information, covers the earth with its ever increasing circulation, like falling leaves from1 some mighty tree of knowledge. And, of the making of many books, there is truly no end.
The means of communication by the mail, telegraph and telephone have been multiplied in geometrical progression.
By the Universal Postal Union, printed matter is carried as cheaply to Iceland or China as to the next street in Chicago.
But perhaps the prediction of our text refers more especially to the increase of Bible study, and here again we have a wonderful fulfillment. Since the year 1804 over 230,000,000 of Bibles, Testaments, and portions have been distributed by the Bible Societies alone, and millions more by private publication agencies. The Bible bas been translated into over 287 languages, and parts into 340. Over nine-tenths of the race have the Bible to read in their own language.
Religious papers and periodicals are issued by the million. The great system of universal Sunday-school lessons, the Bible Institutes, the Chautauqua Summer Schools and Bible Conferences have developed a world-wide study of the Word of God.
With this there has come a wide-spread study of the Prophetic Word, especially concerning Israel and our Lord's return. While the skeptic and destructive critic are studying about the Word, trying to undermine and tear it down, the reverent students by the thousand are looking into the sure Word of Prophecy as to a light that shineth in a dark place.
ll. Perilous Times.
"This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come." -2nd Timothy 3 :1.
a. Perilous times.
Physically: Pestilence, famine, earthquakes, cyclones, etc.
Possibly the recently vented oil and gases of the earth are a preparation for some mighty conflagration to be aided by newly manifested heat and electrical forces from the sun.
b. Politically and Socially.
Under this head we need only refer to the progress of Nihilism, Socialism, Communism and Anarchy. Could there be anything worse than the creed of the latter, viz.: The first lie is God and the second is Law. They openly avow that their mission is to destroy the present social structure, and they prophesy (perhaps with the accuracy of Caiphas), that something better will come.
c. Distress of Nations.
National jealousies have caused offensive and defensive preparations on a scale of such magnitude as to literally grind out the life of the people with oppressive taxation. All Europe is practically a soldiers' camp, with 23,000,000 of drilled men ready to fly at each other in a universal war, with weapons so ingenious and deadly as to put all the past record beneath the shadow of comparison.
Governments vie with each other in the suicidal policy of adding corps to corps and ships to ships, piling up their national debts in the face of absolute bankruptcy.
It is appalling to contemplate the woe and carnage that would follow in the wake of these forces, if once let loose. No wonder the statesmen strain every nerve to defer that day by their struggle to preserve the peace of Europe.
In the very midst of the scene, lawlessness lifts its hydrahead. Capital cringes before the coming revenge of labor. Jas. 5. Men's hearts fail them for fear of the things that be coming on the earth. And well they may, for Satan will combine all these forces in his mighty culminating effort to stamp out the name of God from the earth. He will head them up in his masterpiece, the atheistic Antichrist, who will deny both the Father and the Son.
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils." 1st Timothy. 4 :1.
Modern Spiritualism is by no means mere trickery. There is plenty of fraud and deception that requires darkened rooms and suspicious cabinets, but there are also unquestionable mysteries and spirit manifestations, demons that long to possess the bodies of men, wicked spirits which love darkness rather than light.
It is a definite sign of the times.
So also is Christian Science a doctrine of devils, for, like, Theosophy, it denies the atonement of Christ, and asserts that every man is his own Savior.
There are said to be more esoteric Buddhists in and about Boston than there are natives in Australia. Christian Science has swept over the country like a prairie fire, and Spiritualism has its myriads of adherents. This surprising prevalence of these three delusions is, like a cloud of darkness, a sign that the end is near.
The day of the Lord (the revelation), shall not come, "except there come a falling away first." 2 Thessalonians 2 :3. The Laodicean, or the last state of the Church, is one so sickening that the Lord says He will spue it out of His mouth. There is to be a dearth of faith especially in regard to the coming of the Lord. "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man cometh shall He find the faith on the earth?" -Luke 18 :8.
An aged minister once said that he did not believe the Lord was coming for 60,000 years. I concluded that he could not be watching for it.
Post-Millennialists say very little about the coming of the Lord. An elderly Methodist clergyman in Florida, said that he had never heard only five sermons on the Lord's coming, and he preached them all himself. In many large audiences where an expression has been taken it is surprising to see what a great majority have never heard a single sermon on this Blessed Hope, which finds so large a place in the Holy Scriptures.
There is a notable dearth of power in the preaching of the Word to-day! Men descant on how to reach the masses but the masses go on unreached.
Every period of hard times and business depression heretofore, has been followed by a wonderful revival. But not so this last time. Why so few conversions during this last era of hard times? There is evidently one answer. The attacks by Higher Critics upon the inspiration of the Bible have found so many adherents in the ranks of the clergy and theological professors who proclaim their doubts that the faith of the masses has been undermined and the great truths of the Bible have no longer that firm hold upon their consciences which has heretofore stimulated the disciples to faithful service, and brought sinners to repentance. With the great Greek church wedded to politics, the Catholic church worshiping Mary in the place of Christ and pronouncing blessing upon those who idolatrously kiss the toe of the image of Agrippina and Nero, and the Protestant churches so largely stiffened with formalism and honeycombed with infidelity, we see the apostacy moving forward with such rapid strides that we again conclude the end is near.
V. World-wide Evangelism.
"This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, then shall the end come." Mat. 24:14.
We ought just here to explain that while the Church is the present agent for the world's evangelization she may be caught away at any moment. Then the tribulation saints-those who will believe by the very fact of the Church being caught away-may become the agents, for God will always have a witness in the earth. Later it may be converted Israel. Lastly it is to be a heavenly messenger.
So we are simply to work while the day lasts, watching and waiting because we have no sign nor event that stands between us and the coming of the Lord.
But let us see what has been accomplished.
What is a witness?
We have only one exemple or illustration in the Word, and that is Jonah's three days preaching in the streets of Nineveh.
Every nation in the world to-day has a testimony comparatively as great, with the exception of Tibet, Nepaul and Bhotan and the Mohammedan countries of Afghanistan and the Soudan, and into the former the Bible has already gone in great numbers, and missionaries stand at the doors waiting the privilege of entering in.
Is it not impressively significant that the missionaries sent forth during this century have seemingly without any human supervision, been impelled to go to every land, island, nation and tribe of the earth.
"Oh, Church of Christ, behold at last The promised sign appear; The gospel preached In all the world, , And lo! the King draws near."
VI. Rich Men.
"Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. . . Ye have heaped treasures together for (in) the last days." James 5:1,8.
The accumulation of riches, in the hands of a few men, is specially characteristic of the present times.
It is needless to mention the financial kings who, through trusts and various manipulations, continue to add to their enormous estates.
If Adam had lived to the present time and accumulated $10,000 additional wealth each year of his life, this vast aggregate would not equal several individual fortunes which have been amassed in recent years. What limit these colossal estates shall attain by joining "house to house" and "field to field," none can tell. But we know that "woe" has been uttered concerning it, and that it is distinctively a sign of the last days.
If we want to know our place in chronology, our position in the march of events, look at Israel. God says of Israel: "I will make a full end of all the nations whither I have scattered thee, but I will not make a full end of thee." Jeremiah 30:11, R. V.
Like Tennyson's brook they can sing, nations come and nations go, but I go on forever. They are the generation which pass not away.
Israel shall be restored to Palestine and no more be pulled up out of their land.6
Hundreds of prophecies affirm this dispensational truth. Like the red thread in the British rigging, it runs through the whole Bible. Prophecies to the people like Ezek. 37, and prophecies to the land like Ezek. 36.
The title deed to Palestine is recorded, not in the Mohammedan Serai of Jerusalem nor the Serglio of Constantinople, but in hundreds of millions of Bibles now extant in more than three hundred languages of the earth.
The restoration was summed up at the first council of the apostles in Jerusalem, as their conclusion based upon the words of the prophets.
As the fig-tree which Jesus found bearing nothing but leaves, Israel hath been set aside for a whole (aion) dispensation.
Jerusalem was to be trodden down until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
But note carefully that a little later Jesus said, "Now learn a parable of the fig-tree (and all the trees): when her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near. So likewise, ye, in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors." Mark 13 :28; Luke 21-29.
In Ezekiel 31 the trees are used as symbols of the nations.
"The fig-tree was THE JEWISH PEOPLE full of the leaves of an useless profession, but without fruit."-Dean Alford.
Now if Israel is beginning to show signs of national life and is actually returning to Palestine, then surely the end of this dispensation "is nigh, even at the doors."
This brings us to speak of Zionism, the present movement of the Jews to return to the land of their fathers.
Zionism is a modern term expressing the national hopes and sentiments of the Jews.
These sentiments, however, are based upon widely different views, as held by the most extreme sections of the parties into which the Jews are divided.
As is well known the Jews have, in the past fifty years, become divided into three great sections, viz.: the orthodox, the status quo, and the reformed.
The orthodox hold to the Old Testament Scriptures, as interpreted by the Talmud, as the literal Word of God, and also to the hopes and heritage of their ancestors founded thereon. They believe in the oft repeated utterances of the prophets, that some day they shall return to Palestine and become permanently settled as a holy and happy nation, under the sovereignty of their coming Messiah.
These hopes are the very core of their intensely religious life, and are embedded in the most solemn devotions of their prayer-book.
Every morning, throughout every nation and clime, whither they are scattered over this whole world, the orthodox Jew lifts up his prayer:
"Save us, 0 God of our salvation, and gather us together and deliver us from the nations."
"May it be acceptable unto thee, Eternal; our God and the God of our Fathers, that the sanctuary may be rebuilt speedily in our days and our portion assigned us in thy law. There will we serve thee in reverence as of old, in days of yore."
In that solemn service of the Passover they cry out,
"At present we celebrate it here, but the next year we hope to celebrate it in the land of Israel," and again, "0 build Jerusalem the holy city speedily in our days. Blessed art Thou, 0 Lord!"
With such faithful and earnest prayers have these orthodox Jews kept alive the fires of devotion and the glorious hopes of restoration, while being driven up and down the earth with the rods of enmity, ostracism and banishment. But for over seventeen centuries, while they have thus fervently prayed, they have made no effort to return to Palestine, believing that they should wait until God Himself, brought about their restoration by supernatural means.
About 200 years ago the persecutions began to abate, and in the eighteenth century they were gradually emancipated from these various disabilities. With this coming of liberty, there was a noise and a shaking and the dry bones of Ezek. 37 began to come together.
The Universelle Israelite Alliance was organized in Paris in 1860, and later the Anglo-Jewish Association in England. Through these powerful organizations the Jews can make themselves felt throughout the world. And now, within a few years, there have been organized Chovevi (lovers of) Zion and Shova (colonizers of) Zion societies, mostly among the orthodox Jews of Russia, Roumania, Germany, and even in England and the United States. This is really the first practical effort they have made to regain their home in Palestine.
In a few words, followers of the status quo are striving to reconcile the genius of Judaism with the requirements of modern times, and in Western Europe are in a great majority.
The Reformed Jews or Neologists have rapidly thrown away their faith in the inspiration of the Scriptures. They have flung to the wind all national and Messianic hopes. Their Rabbis preach rapturously about the mission of Judaism, while Joining with the most radical higher critics in the destruction of its very basis, the inspiration of the Word of God. Some have gone clear over into agnosticism.
Strange to say, from these agnostics now comes the other wing of the Zionist party. And not only have they joined this party, but they furnished the leaders, viz.: Dr. Max Nordau of Paris, and Dr. Theodore Herzl of Vienna.
The orthodox Jews who have enlisted under the Zionist banner, are animated by the most devout religious motives. But the agnostics aver that this is not a religious movement at all. It is purely economic and nationalistic. Dr. Herzl, its founder and principal leader, espoused it as a dernier resort, to escape the persecutions of anti-Semitism, which has taken such a firm hold of the masses of the Austrian people. He conceived the idea that if the Jews' could regain Palestine and establish a government, even under the suzerainty of the Sultan, it would give them a. national standing which would expunge anti-Semitism from the other nations of the world, and make it possible for all Jews to live comfortably in any nation they may desire.
Not all the orthodox Jews have joined this movement. Indeed, the leaders of the Chovevi Zion Societies hold aloof.
The call, issued by Dr. Herzl, for the Zionist Congress, held in Basle, Switzerland in 1897 met with severe opposition from the German Rabbis and also a large portion of the Jewish press, as well as the mass of rich reformed Jews. Nevertheless, over 200 delegates, from all over Europe and the Orient and some from the United States, met and carned through the program of the congress with tremendous enthusiasm.
Memorials, approving the object of the congress, came in from all sections, signed by tens of thousands of Jews. The congress elected a central committee and authorized the raising of $50,000,000 capital.
It has certainly marked a wonderful innovation in the attitude of the Jews and a closer gathering of the dry bones of Ezekiel.
And now, after ten years of wonderful growth and progress it remains to be seen what the providential openings in the Ottoman Empire may be that shall give opportunity to realize its object.
Zionism is now the subject of the most acrimonious debate among the Jews. Many of the orthodox criticize it as an attempt to seize the prerogatives of their God.
While others say that God will not work miracles to accomplish that which they can do themselves.
Most of the reformed Jews, now that they can no longer ridicule the movement, decry it, as an egregious blunder that will increase instead of diminishing anti-Semitism. They have no desire to return to Palestine. They are like the man in Kansas, who, in a revival meeting said he did not want to go to heaven, nor did he wish to go to hell but he said he wanted to stay right there in Kansas.
Just so these reformed Jews are content to renounce all the prophesied glory of a Messianic kingdom in the land of their ancestors, preferring the palatial homes and gathered riches which they have acquired in Western Europe and the United States. They coolly advise their persecuted brethren, in Russia, Romania, Persia and North Africa, to patiently endure their grievous persecutions until anti-Semitism shall die out.
But these brethren retort that their prudent advisers would think very differently if they lived in Morocco or Russia, and that even in Western Europe anti-Semitism instead of dying out, is rather on the increase.
In the midst of these disputes, the Zionists have seized the reins and eschewing the help of Abraham's God they have accepted agnostics as leaders and are plunging madly into this scheme for the erection of a Godless state.
But the Bible student will surely gay, this godless national gathering of Israel is not the fulfillment of the glorious divine restoration, so glowingly described by the prophets.
No, indeed! Let it be carefully noted that while God has repeatedly promised to gather Israel, with such a magnificent display of His miraculous power, that it shall no more be said, "The Lord liveth that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; but the Lord liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands whither he had driven them," Jeremiah 16:14; yet has He also said, "Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, 0 nation that hath no longing, before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you." Zephaniah 2 :1, 2. Could this prophecy be more literally fulfilled than by this present Zionist movement?
One of the speakers at the first congress said of the Sultan, "If His majesty will now receive us, we will accept Him as our Messiah."
God says, "Ye have sold yourselves for nought and ye shall be redeemed without money." Isaiah. 52 :3.
But Dr. Herzl is reported to have said, "We must buy our way back to Palestine, salvation is to be by money."
What a sign is this that the end of this dispensation is near.
If it stood alone we might well give heed to it. But when we find it supported by all these other signs, set forth in the Word, how can we-refuse to believe it?
Shall we Christians condemn the Jews for not accepting the cumulative evidence that Jesus is the Messiah; and ourselves refuse this other cumulative evidence that His second coming is near?
It is significant that this first Zionist congress assembled just 1,260 years after the capture of Jerusalem by the Mohammedans in A. D. 637. Dan. 12:7.
It is probable that "the times of the Gentiles" are nearing their end, and that the nations are soon to plunge into the mighty whirl of events connected with Israel's godless gathering, "Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30 :6, 7), that awful time of tribulation, like which there has been none in the past, nor shall be in the future. Mat. 24 :21.
But we, brethren, are not of the night. We are to watch and pray always that we may escape all these things that shall come to pass and stand before the Son of Man. Lu. 21:36.
Oh! glorious Hope. No wonder the Spirit and the Bride say come. No wonder the Bridegroom saith, "Surely I come quickly," and shall not we all join with the enraptured apostle,
"Even so come, Lord Jesus"?
"I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work."-John 9:4.
All the World-Wide Mission Field demands increased consecration of ourselves, our time, and our substance.
O fellow servants, let us improve the wonderful opportunities of our day to make investments for eternity.
Jesus is Coming Again "WATCH therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." Matthew 24:42.
"WATCH therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour." Matthew 25 :13.
"Take Ye Heed, WATCH and pray; for ye know not when the time is."
"WATCH ye therefore; for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning, lest, coming suddenly, He find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto ALL, WATCH."
Mark 13 :33-37. "Blessed is he that WATCHETH, and keepeth his garments." Rev, 16 :15.
"If therefore thou shalt not WATCH I will come on thee as a thief." "BEHOLD, I COME QUICKLY," Rev. 3 :3, 11,
"YE SHALL BE WITNESSES."
Reader, what shall be our occupation, as disciples of the Lord Jesus, while we watch and wait for His return' It is not enough that we have a personal experience of repentance, faith, forgiveness, adoption and sanctification; it is not enough that we study the Word to search out the deep things of Providence and prophecy. We must join heart and hand in the great practical work of
EVANGELIZING THE WORLD.
For this is our Lord's command: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mat. 28 :19); and He has said "This Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come." (Mat. 24:14.) While the Church remains on earth (see page 86) she is certainly the agent to accomplish this purpose, because Jesus said: '"Ye shall be witnesses unto me . . . unto the utter- most part of the earth." (Acts 1 :8; Luke 24:47-48.)
Let us engage, with all our might, in this world-wide mission work. Let us give of our means, our prayers and our words of encouragement to those who go to preach in the by-ways and hedges and in distant lands (Rom. 10 :15), and, if possible, let us go ourselves, thereby insuring ourselves of His fellowship Who said, "and 10, I am with you always."
Thus shall we best please the Master.
Thus shall we hasten the day of God. (2 Pet. 3 :12 margin Mat. 24:14.)
The progress already made inspires us to greater effort. The world is belted with centers of evangelization. From Greenland to Patagonia, from Norway to Good Hope, from Siberia to Tasmania, and throughout the Islands of the sea, multitudes of Gospel messengers are proclaiming the Word of Life. Only a few strongholds of Satan are yet without any witness, and of these Nepal and Tibet are opening their doors to waiting missionaries, while Central Africa unbars her millennial fastness to advancing heroes from every quarter. Read the missionary periodicals, especially those giving general news, and your soul will rejoice in the hope that even now the witness is almost complete. Then arouse ye, comrades, and let us obey our marching orders, until we hear the welcome "well done" when the "ambassadors" are called home.