Signs - Part 1

Scripture: Matthew 24:1-51, Daniel 12:1-4, Revelation 11:18
Just as a sign was given to Belshazzar, king of Babylon, that the end of his empire was soon to take place, so God has given us signs of the end of our world.
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It was five minutes until midnight in the beautiful ancient city of Babylon. Perhaps there was a full moon to illuminate the lovely hanging gardens which constituted one of the wonders of the world. No doubt the night air was laden with the perfume of exotic flowers. Most of the city was wrapped in slumber, but from the very heart of the city came sounds of music and laughter. The palace of great king Belshazzar was bathed in lights. It was a night of feasting, and one thousand lords of the kingdom were taking part in a God-defying, drunken debauch. The king himself was leading out in the blasphemy against sacred things. Suddenly, at the very height of the hilarity, a sudden hush fell over the assembled multitude. Every eye was drawn to one spot by the door.

Terror struck at every heart, and knees began to smite together, for a bloodless hand emerged and began to write upon the plaster of the wall. No one could read the strange characters. Suddenly, someone remembered Daniel, the prophet, and a messenger was hurried away to call this man to come and see if he could tell them the meaning of the writing. Soon Daniel was standing in their midst. He began to interpret for them what had been written. “Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting, this night thy kingdom is taken from thee.” And as Daniel read to them the enemy was coming in under the wall, and within an hour the king was dead and Babylon’s glory had disappeared. The night of sin had turned into the hour of destruction.

Today it’s five minutes until midnight by God’s great time piece. You say, “What do you mean by that?” I mean that God is writing on the wall of our generation and telling us that destruction is approaching, that we must get ready for the end of all things. Somebody may say, “Well, I’ve heard this for years, I don’t believe in all this calamity-howling. I think we have plenty of time left yet in this world.” I’m sure that’s the way Belshazzar thought as he looked at those mighty walls of Babylon. And by the way, they were 200 ft tall, 75 feet thick. No enemy could possible breach those fortified walls. No one would be able to defeat that great city.

Just as surely as God told Belshazzar that the end of his kingdom was near, so He is trying to tell us that the end of the world is very, very near. You say, “How will the warning be given to us? God spoke then to that great King, but how is He going to speak to us and tell us how we should get ready?” The warning will be given as Jesus described it in Matthew 24:3. He gives us a whole chapter there in the gospel of Matthew telling exactly what great signs would mark the approaching end of all things. “And as he sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?” And so Jesus gave answers to those disciples who wanted to know about the end of things.

This is the same question we’re concerned about today, isn’t it. We would also ask, “How can we know when it is near?” Jesus said, “I’ll tell you how to understand. There will be certain great fulfilling signs to let you know when my coming is near.” He said, “You must watch for this event and for that sign.” And so He described in detail certain things that would have to take place near the very close of world history.

After giving a long list, He said this: “Learn a parable of the fig tree, when his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves ye know that summer in nigh. And when you see all these things know that my coming is near.” Now what are some of those things, friends, that we should be looking for today? Are we actually seeing today before our very eyes what Jesus spoke about? The final things? Well, let’s see for a moment.

Notice Matthew 24:6, “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 in not yet.” Somebody says, “Well, we’ve always had wars, every generation has had its share of conflict, violence and warfare.” Yes, that’s true, but notice that Jesus went on to say something more about the kind of warfare that would be taking place in the very last days.

In verse 7 He said, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines.” Now it’s true that nations have been fighting each other in every age of the world’s history, but there has not been world involvement until very recently. Jesus indicated that local battles and conflicts would not be the major sign of His coming, but that His coming would be preceded by world wars. He said, “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”

Now the First World War actually took place back in 1914. Seven-eighths of the world was involved in that mighty conflict, and ten million soldiers died. It cost four hundred billion dollars. But then about twenty years later, more or less, another great war broke out which cost four times as much as that first one. In fact the cost of it is so stupendous that we can hardly pronounce it. But it was four times more than World War 1. But was that the end of conflict? Of course not. We know all about the other wars that have consumed nations. Look at Daniel 12:1. “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”

What are we told in this text? It says that when the world comes to an end there will be trouble such as never was seen before. Some folk think that things are going to get better, that the world will get more righteous, that people will improve and become morally better. That’s a delusion friends, it will never happen. The Bible doesn’t say anything about the world getting better and more righteous. It just speaks of men getting more wicked and God-defying as time goes along.

This says that at the time of the end there will be great trouble. Put that with another text in Revelation 11:18. “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged.” Notice that when the judgment takes place, when Jesus comes, there will be anger among the nations. Why, that’s a headline in the newspaper, isn’t it? We could have read it this very morning out of the local newspaper because the nations are angry. And these are things that must happen just prior to the coming of Christ. Violent death will be no stranger to this world in the days of the end. Notice in Luke 21:11, 25, 26.

This again is the teaching of the Master Himself. “And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” This sounds almost like a commentary on today’s news, doesn’t it? We have heard of these calamities. This is the handwriting of God. He’s writing upon the wall of our generation and telling us to get ready, just as Belshazzar was warned of approaching doom to his kingdom.

Floods, hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, we’ve never heard of any more natural calamities and catastrophes than we are hearing about today. I just read recently that over 200 tornadoes every year occur right here in the United States of America. What about earthquakes? We’ve been hearing a lot about those recently. The British Association for the Advancement of Science has been keeping a record of destructive earthquakes for many, many years, for hundreds of years in fact. And this is what they found. In the first century there were 15 destructive earthquakes, in the 16th century there were 253, in the 18th century 640, in the 19th century there were 2119. But in the 20th century there have been more already so far than in all the preceding centuries before.

Now let’s turn to another very interesting prophecy of the Bible found in Daniel 12:4. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Is this true today? Are we seeing anything like the increase of knowledge and men running to and fro, as this text seems to indicate? Life has been revolutionized in the last fifty years. Almost every convenience of our modern life has come into existence since 1900. Even I can recall the excitement of the first electric line which was brought into our little town in North Carolina.

Many of you who listen to my voice today may remember the first automobile you ever saw. A hundred years ago this was almost like another world, even another planet. In fact, in 1900 there was not a single highway in the world for an automobile to travel over. Few people had ever even seen a model of an automobile. There was no airplane, no aluminum for making a pot or a pan, no electrical appliances. If you should go back over a hundred years, let’s say to 1860, there were no electric lights, no typewriters, no bicycle, no radio, no telephone-why, friends, little children today have more knowledge than their grandparents gathered in their entire lives.

In 1898 a very interesting thing happened. The United States battleship Charleston sailed into the island port of Guam and began to shell the old fort there. You see, the United States was at war with Spain. But the governor of the island didn’t know that, so he sent his messenger up to give back a message by the little flag signals saying that he was sorry he could not return the salute, his powder was soaked and he couldn’t return it. He did not know his government was at war with the United States because of lack of communication.

Well, these things are very interesting, friends, because they indicate that God is truly writing on the wall, that He is fulfilling prophecy, that the things predicted are now taking place. We need to understand that the midnight hour of this earth’s history is approaching. We must get ready now, there is very little time left for us to make our preparation. Have you made your preparation? Are you getting ready for these things that have been predicted, that must take place? There can be no failure, friends. God’s Word never fails. Not one letter of it has ever failed. You can be sure that it is going to happen, because God does not make mistakes.

We’ve not finished with this subject. We’ve just really introduced it. In our next broadcast, we are going to continue and tell you even more amazing things that have happened in our modern day to indicate that we have such a little time left. I predict that you are going to be utterly surprised by some of the things the Bible teaches that you have never understood before in the light of current events. So be sure to tune in and hear the rest of this subject.

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