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    THE TIME OF THE END

    But “when shall these things be?” This is an important question. When Christ had pointed to the wondrous buildings of the temple and said: “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down,” the disciples connecting this catastrophe with the end of all things came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:2, 3. There are some who tell us that we have no business to inquire anything about the time of Christ’s coming. If that were so, what a good opportunity Jesus had to emphasize the fact, so that his disciples should never forget it, when they asked him the question just quoted. Did he say to them, “Don’t bother your heads with such questions; you’ll know when it comes?” Not at all. Not a word of censure or reproof did he utter, but simply said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” And then he proceeded to give them certain infallible signs by which they might know when his coming should be near, and so avoid being imposed upon.PROLI 113.1

    It is true that further on in this twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, the Saviour said: “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of Heaven, but my Father only” (verse 36); yet just before that he had said that when certain signs had come to pass, they should know that his coming was near, “even at the doors.” Verse 33. Therefore we conclude that while it is impossible for anybody to tell the day of Christ’s coming, it is our duty to know when it is near. So Paul writes to the Thessalonian brethren, saying, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:1. What times and seasons were the Thessalonians so familiar with? Why, the times and the seasons of the coming of the Lord to raise the righteous dead and translate the living saints, which was the event then under consideration. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.)PROLI 113.2

    “But,” says one, “Paul goes right on to say that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.” So he does; but to whom? Why, to those who are dwelling at ease, saying, “Peace and safety.” 1 Thessalonians 5:3. He immediately adds: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” Verses 4, 5. It is only the children of the night, and of the darkness, therefore, to whom the day of the Lord will come as a thief.PROLI 114.1

    The same idea is expressed by the Saviour in Luke 21:34, 35: “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.” Christians are not “dwellers” on this earth, but only sojourners. See 1 Peter 1:17; 2:11; Hebrews 11:13; Psalm 39:12. Those who have no thought or care but to live on this earth, whose “inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling-places to all generations,” will be immersed in the cares of this life, and will of course be surprised by the coming of the day of the Lord. But our Saviour very plainly teaches that those who take heed to themselves, and do not become overcharged with surfeiting, drunkenness, and cares of this life, will not be overtaken as by a thief, when the day of the Lord shall come. Therefore we are not only warranted in looking for the coming of our Lord, and studying the signs which betoken its near approach, but we are in duty bound to do so.PROLI 114.2

    The dream which was given to Nebuchadnezzar, and which Daniel explained, was given him in order that he might know “what shall be in the latter days.” Daniel 2:28. And in our brief study of the prophecies of the book of Daniel we have seen that they are all way-marks, indicating the time of the end. Thus, by the second chapter we are brought down definitely to the year 476 A. D., the time of the complete division of the Roman Empire; and the next thing mentioned is the setting up of God’s everlasting kingdom. In the seventh chapter we are brought down still closer to the day of the Lord, to the close of papal supremacy, in 1798; and the next great event is the time when the saints shall possess the kingdom. There is not a chain of prophecy that does not culminate in the glorious coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But of all the prophecies of the Bible, the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew gives the most definite information concerning the time of the coming of the Lord. Let us see what we can learn from it, with reference to that important event.PROLI 114.3

    Notice the question which the disciples asked: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” They did not ask if he would come again, for there was no question in their minds on that subject. They did not ask him how he would come, for they had no idea of any other manner of coming but a personal coming. They simply asked him as to the time of an event which they had no doubt would take place. Therefore since Jesus did not rebuke their curiosity, but proceeded to answer their question, we must conclude that he told them something concerning the time of his coming. And so we shall find that to be the one great burden of this chapter, of which we shall now give a brief exposition.PROLI 115.1

    In response to the question of the disciples, Jesus said: “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” Verses 4, 5. We cannot agree with those commentators who find the fulfillment of this prediction in the numerous pseudo-messiahs that appeared in the first few centuries. There are two reasons why Jesus could not have had reference to these: 1. The subject of discourse was the second coming of Christ. The disciples having asked Jesus concerning the signs of his second advent, he replied, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ.” It is evident that the warning of Jesus was against being deceived on the very point about which they were asking. 2. Only those who did not believe that Jesus was the Christ, could be deceived by false messiahs. The disciples, to whom Jesus was talking privately, did fully believe that Jesus was “that Christ, the Son of the living God.” Therefore there could have been no propriety in warning them against being deceived by men who should profess to have come only in fulfillment of the prophecies which predicted the first advent of Christ. Of course we must remember that while this discourse was delivered to the disciples who followed Christ in his earthly ministry, it is just as directly addressed to his people in all subsequent ages to the end of time. We conclude, therefore, that the warning against false christs, with which Jesus began this discourse, had in view the false christs mentioned in verses 23, 24.PROLI 115.2

    “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Verses 6-14.PROLI 116.1

    There cannot be the slightest doubt but that in these verses we are carried rapidly over the history of the world till the end of time. The “end” spoken of in verses 13, 14 must of course refer to “the end of the world,” concerning which the disciples asked, and which is identical with the second coming of Christ. The end of the world is the time of the harvest. Matthew 13:39. But it is at the time of the harvest that the Son of man comes to reap the earth (Revelation 14:14); and it is then that he sends forth his angels to gather his people. (Compare Matthew 13:40, 41; 24:30, 31.) Therefore in the verses just quoted, the Saviour gave — not an answer to the question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” — but a brief statement of facts to prepare their minds for the direct answer to that question.PROLI 116.2

    It can be set down, therefore, that wars and rumors of wars are not positive signs of the near coming of Christ. They are not signs by which we can tell anything about how near that event is. As a matter of fact, there were no general uprisings of nation against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, until about three hundred years after the time of Christ, when the dismemberment of Rome by the barbarous nations of the North began. But although in these invasions, the country was devastated, and great numbers of people were slaughtered, the suffering did not approach that which the Christians had to endure on account of their faith. In verses 9, 10 we have reference both to the pagan and the papal persecutions; and not only to those, but to all the persecutions for conscience’ sake that shall take place before the Lord comes. For that there will be persecutions clear down till the coming of the Lord, is shown by both the prophet Daniel and the apostle Paul. Says the prophet, speaking of the papacy under the symbol of the little horn:PROLI 116.3

    “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” Daniel 7:21, 22. And Paul says that in the last days men will be false accusers, fierce, despisers of those that are good, and that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12.PROLI 117.1

    Persecution, however, is not the worst thing that the church has had and will have to encounter. The times of greatest persecution have been the times of the church’s greatest purity and devotion. The church’s greatest danger has been and will ever be from false teachers (false prophets) who draw thousands into error and eternal ruin by their pleasing sophistries. “One sinner destroyeth much good,” says Solomon; and certainly no sinners are greater, or more capable of destroying good, than those who conceal their iniquity by a cloak of pretended righteousness, stealing the livery of the court of Heaven to serve the devil in. Jude speaks thus of them: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude 4. Peter also, who addressed his second epistle “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” which includes all Christians, says, after speaking of the prophecies of old time:—PROLI 117.2

    “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” 2 Peter 2:1-3.PROLI 117.3

    “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” The iniquity here referred to is not simply the iniquity of the worldling, but is iniquity which should cause the love of many to wax cold. Now the iniquity of a wicked man cannot cause the love of a righteous man to grow cold, unless the righteous man becomes contaminated by the wickedness. This is contemplated by the text, and is a consequence of the deceptions practiced by false teachers. So long as men cling to and love the pure doctrines of the Bible, they are safe; but the acceptance of false doctrines must necessarily lead to the practice of iniquity. Sound doctrine is the foundation and conservator of all morality; it is the rock upon which a man must build if he would have his house stand against the flood which the archenemy brings in. He who accepts false doctrine, no matter whether he is deceived, or does it willfully, builds his house upon the sand. From both profane and sacred history we know that the early centuries of the Christian era witnessed a terrible “falling away” from the purity of Christian faith and practice; and Paul tells us that “in the last days” a worse state still may be expected. 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13. But he that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” James 1:12.PROLI 117.4

    “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matthew 24:14. This verse has given rise to much speculation and contention, which was all unnecessary. Some have supposed that the “end” cannot refer to the coming of Christ, because they say that the gospel was preached in all the world long ago, and the Lord has not come yet; while others claim that the destruction of Jerusalem must have been the coming of the Lord, that is everywhere referred to in this chapter. It is a fact that Paul says of the “glad tidings of good things” that “their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” Romans 10:18. And again he says that the gospel “was preached to every creature which is under heaven.” Colossians 1:23. Now how shall we reconcile these statements with Christ’s statement that the end should come as soon as “this gospel of the kingdom” should be “preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations”? A brief examination of a few texts of Scripture, letting every part of the text in question have its full weight, will settle this question.PROLI 118.1

    First, let it be borne in mind that it is “this gospel of the kingdom” which is to be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, before the end can come. That term can mean nothing else than the good news of the near approach of Christ in his kingdom. Now while the apostles taught, and the early disciples believed in, the second advent of our Lord, they did not teach nor expect that it was to take place in their day. In every one of his epistles Paul had something to say about the second coming of Christ; but he expressly warned the people against thinking that it was to occur immediately. Some of the Thessalonian brethren had gotten the idea, partly by a misunderstanding of Paul’s first letter to them, and partly by letters forged in Paul’s name, that the coming of the Lord was imminent, and to them the apostle wrote as follows:—PROLI 118.2

    “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.PROLI 118.3

    And then he goes on to remind them that when he was with them he had told them these things, how that the great apostasy must take place, and the papacy must be established and run its course, before the coming of the Lord; “for thus it is written by the prophet.” (See Daniel 7.) And even in the chapter under consideration, our Saviour introduces the same thing, speaking of the “great tribulation” that should come, and how his disciples should be hated of all nations, for his sake, and should be afflicted and put to death. Still further, he tells of signs to take place after the passing of that great apostasy and consequent tribulation, before he should come. Therefore we must conclude that “this gospel of the kingdom” has never yet been preached “in all the world, as a witness unto all nations.” When that shall have been done, then, as surely as the Scriptures are the infallible word of God, the end will come. That time is doubtless nearer than most people imagine.PROLI 119.1

    “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand), then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains; let him which is on the house-top not come down to take anything out of his house; neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.” Matthew 24:15-18.PROLI 119.2

    In thus foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem (compare verse 14 with Luke 21:20), the Saviour answered the question, “When shall these things be?” which the disciples had asked when Jesus said that the time should come that there should not be one stone of the temple left upon another, that should not be thrown down. Some have thought that all the references to the coming of the Lord, and all the predictions of this chapter, found their fulfillment at the destruction of Jerusalem, simply because that event is here introduced. But that this is a mistake ought to be evident to anyone who reads the chapter, and who has any just sense of the meaning of language.PROLI 119.3

    When Christ comes it will be as the lightning that shines from the east to the west, over the whole heaven. Matthew 24:27; Luke 17:24. Nothing that could be likened to such a phenomenon took place at the destruction of Jerusalem.PROLI 119.4

    Before the coming of the Lord the sun was to be darkened, and the moon was to withhold her light, and the stars were to fall (Matthew 24:29; Joel 2:31); history contains no record of anything like any such occurrences between the time of Christ’s ascension and the destruction of Jerusalem.PROLI 120.1

    When Christ comes, “the Lord himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16. To apply this language to the coming of Titus and his Roman legions to Jerusalem, is little less than sacrilege.PROLI 120.2

    When Christ comes “all the tribes of the earth” shall mourn. Matthew 24:30. The destruction of Jerusalem fell a long way short of affecting one-half of “all the tribes of the earth.” Some of “the tribes of the earth,” especially the Romans, rejoiced greatly at its destruction.PROLI 120.3

    When the Son of man comes, “he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds” (Matthew 24:31), and the dead shall at the same time be raised incorruptible (1 Corinthians 15:52); but none can be found so rash as to suggest that anything of the kind occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem. There was no gathering of the righteous, but a scattering of both righteous and wicked; no raising of the dead, but an immense slaughter of the living.PROLI 120.4

    But why carry the contrast further? Since the language of the Bible cannot be tortured so as to give the slightest color to the claim that the destruction of Jerusalem and the coming of Christ are identical, we may well leave those who make so monstrous an assertion, to face their conflict with the Bible the best they can.PROLI 120.5

    Why, then, did the Lord introduce the subject of the destruction of Jerusalem into this discourse? For the simple reason that the disciples had asked concerning it, and he wanted, besides satisfying their curiosity, to let his faithful followers know when to flee from the ill-fated city, in order to save their lives. When they should see Jerusalem encompassed with armies (see Luke 21:20) then they were to know that the desolation which is spoken of in Luke 19:41-44 was at hand, and were to seize the first opportunity to escape. It would naturally seem as though it would be then too late to escape; but the Lord makes no mistakes in his warnings, and we are told that after Jerusalem had been invested by the Romans, and the people of the city had been reduced almost to the last extremity, Cestius, the Roman general, “retired from the city, without any reason in the world.” (See Josephus, Wars of the Jews, book 2, chap. 19.) This afforded an opportunity for those who treasured the words of Christ, to carry out his instructions, and to flee at once for their lives.PROLI 120.6

    Besides the fact that it was necessary to speak of the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, in order to answer the question put to Jesus by his disciples, and to provide for their safety, there is another reason why it could fittingly come in just as it does; and that is that the destruction of Jerusalem, with its fearful scenes, was a miniature likeness of the final destruction of the wicked, at the coming of Christ. Isaiah says of the time when Christ shall dash the heathen in pieces: “For every battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but this shall be with burning and fuel of fire.” Isaiah 9:5. And the horrors attendant upon the destruction of Jerusalem were so great that one who reads the account of that slaughter and conflagration can scarcely imagine anything greater, except in extent, even at the last day. “The siege and capture of Jerusalem by Titus,” says William Ralph Inge, in “Society in Rome under the Caesars,” p.51, “was perhaps the most murderous of Roman victories.” And Josephus says (preface of The Wars of the Jews): “The war which the Jews made with the Romans hath been the greatest of all those, not only that have been in our times, but, in a manner, of those that ever were heard of; both of those wherein cities have fought against cities, or nations against nations.” Now what may be called the “perspective view” is very common in the Scriptures. That is, two things widely separated in point of time, yet having features in common, are spoken of together, without any notice being taken of the intervening time. As the prophets looked down the stream of time, two events, somewhat similar in character, came within the line of their vision. So far as their view could discern, both of these events might occur at one time, just as two trees many rods apart will appear, to one who stands in range with them, to be standing close together. This explains why in the Old Testament judgments upon ancient cities, as Tyre and Nineveh and Babylon, are foretold in such immediate connection with the announcements of the final Judgment of the whole earth, that it is almost impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins; and in some cases the prophetic accounts overlap, so that a portion of the description applies equally to each event. Of course Christ did not labor under the disadvantages that the prophets did, and he knew very well that his coming would not be until hundreds of years after the destruction of Jerusalem; yet the “perspective view” of the two events is given, and it cannot be denied that a small portion of his language applies equally to each. Nevertheless, he has so fully distinguished between them that no careful reader of the Bible is in danger of confounding them.PROLI 121.1

    “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” Matthew 24:21, 22.PROLI 121.2

    In these verses is the point where all reference to the destruction of Jerusalem ceases, and where the account of the signs indicating the Lord’s coming is resumed. The greater part of these verses undoubtedly refers to the great persecution under the papal supremacy. For although there was great tribulation when Jerusalem was destroyed, the Lamentations of Jeremiah indicate that almost if not quite as great horrors attended the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. That the language applies mostly to some other tribulation than that at the destruction of Jerusalem is evident from the words, “And except those days should be shortened, there should be no flesh saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” Now the shortening of the days of tribulation in Jerusalem could not have any effect whatever upon the “elect;” for none can be called the elect except those who heed the words of Christ; and all who regarded the words of Christ must have fled at the specified time, before the horrors of the siege and the victory appeared. We therefore conclude that taking the destruction of Jerusalem as a starting-point, in verse 21, he includes in the term “great tribulation” the tribulation consequent upon the pagan persecution of Christians, and the greater tribulation that accompanied the persecutions of the church by the papacy.PROLI 122.1

    The papal supremacy lasted, as we have learned in a previous chapter, from A. D. 538 to A. D. 1798. During all this time the Catholic Church had power to persecute, or to instigate persecution. But of course there was not constant persecution, because there was not constant open opposition to its monstrous claims. Nevertheless, during a great deal of that period it did “wear out the saints,” just as the prophecy had foretold. No other term could so fully express just the way the papacy dealt with the true people of God. It literally wore them out. Not content with simply killing a victim, the inquisitors — the executioners of the church — would wear his life out by slow tortures, vying with the barbarous savage in refinements of cruelty. And this they kept up until they had all but worn out all the saints of God. Indeed, this would have been done if God had not in mercy ordered that “those days” of tribulation should be shortened. Because of this, a remnant was left to keep the knowledge of the truth in the earth.PROLI 122.2

    Now can we find out how and when they were curtailed? We can, if we can find out the greatest source of the tribulation; and for that we have not far to seek. A Catholic writer has acknowledged that it was the Inquisition that saved Italy from lapsing into Protestantism. But the Inquisition and Jesuitism can scarcely be separated.PROLI 122.3

    Although the spirit of the Inquisition had existed from the beginning of the great apostasy, the Inquisition itself came into existence just about the time that the order of Jesuits originated. It was a fit tool for such an organization. By means of it the Jesuits well-nigh blotted Christianity from the earth, by destroying all true Christians. But the word of God had declared that the days of tribulation should be cut short, and so they were. The Reformation spread so greatly in some of the countries of Europe that the rulers would not obey the mandates of the Catholic Church. Then, too, Jesuitism threatened to swallow up the church, and become master instead of servant, and so in the year 1773, Pope Clement XIV. issued a bull declaring the order of Jesuits dissolved. This tended to peace and quiet; and although there were not a few instances of persecution after that time, there was never any such persecution as would warrant the term “tribulation.” We may say, therefore, that the days of tribulation came to an end about twenty-five years before the close of the days of papal supremacy. Then comes the time of the end.PROLI 123.1

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