Minutes to Midnight

Scripture: Matthew 24:36, Joel 3:9-10, Luke 21:25-27
People may be alarmed by mankind being destroyed by weapons of mass destruction, but not many recognize that society is destroying itself by indulging in carnal pleasure. What are the signs of Christ's coming and the end of the world? We can know it is near.
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Millions of Americans are alarmed over the great burning question of our day which concerns the danger of mankind destroying himself with his own fearful nuclear weapons. But an even more important issue, to my way of thinking, is whether man will destroy himself by fleshly indulgence and materialism. We live in a society which is satisfied with luxury and carnal pleasure. The senses are constantly stimulated by the sights and sounds of an artificial society, a society that is bewitched in a mad carnival of death.

Even the most thoughtless person today has an uneasy premonition about the future. How long will God withhold His hand in judgment? Are we actually living close to curtain time for the human race?

First, let us make it clear that no one knows the exact time of the coming of Jesus. As our Lord Himself stated in Matthew 24:36: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." However, the Bible makes it conclusively clear that there would be certain signs of the times indicating when the coming of Christ was drawing near.

What are these signs? Can we see them in our world today? Can we be assured we are living in the last days of human history and Christ is soon to fulfill His promise to come again?

The disciples of old asked a similar question recorded in Matthew 24:3: "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?"

In answer to the question of His disciples, Jesus said in verse 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 is not yet." He goes on to say in verse 7: "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places."

We see here pictured in the words of Christ an age that is troubled with turmoil, bloodshed and war on every hand. Not ordinary war, but international conflicts are indicated in His words "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."

Professor Sorikin of Harvard University said: "In the twentieth century war has reached a total eight times greater than in all preceding centuries." Think of World War I that startled the world with untold destruction, costing more than one hundred billions of dollars. Then came World War II taking three hundred million lives, costing our own country alone one trillion, four hundred billion dollars, and destroying hundreds of cities, blasting many of them off the map.

In Germany just outside the town of Darmstadt there is a mass grave where 30,000 human beings are buried. All of them were destroyed in one night of bombing by the R. A. F. Practically the entire population of that city was completely annihilated, sacrificed to appease the god of war. Man today seems to be preparing at a feverish pace for what seems to be the inevitable World War III. This, too, was predicted in Bible prophecy. I am quoting now from Joel 3 verses 9 and 10: "Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong."

The Bible goes on to predict that during the time of unprecedented war preparation, there would be great moves for peace. Jeremiah 6:14 reveals that men would cry, "Peace, peace; when there is no peace."

Pointing to the international confusion as a sign of His coming and of the end of the world, Jesus said in Luke 21:25-27: "And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexities; 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. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." Truly, this is the day in which we now live.

In Matthew 24:12 Jesus gives another sign: "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." This increase of sin or iniquity at the close of human history is elaborated on further by the Apostle Paul in II Timothy 3:1-4: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God."

Here, indeed, is a picture of the moral and social conditions of our world today. Think of the crime wave that is surging across America. Think of the divorce rate, abortion, sexual abuse of children, drug addiction, the AIDS plague. No wonder Alfred Wallace, a famed sociologist of our country, stated in his book: "It is not too much to say that our whole system of society is rotten from top to bottom and the social environment as a whole in relation to our possibilities and our claims is the worst the world has ever seen." Iniquity has reached so deeply into the hearts and homes of modern America that children are pushed around like so much dirt to satisfy the immoral passions and whims of godless parents. Wickedness has so engulfed the world that it seems that the devil himself has full control of the minds of men. Yes, this too is further undeniable evidence that the end of this age is near. Christ is coming soon!

Going back to Matthew 24, we find Jesus still enumerating events to transpire just before He returns. He says in verses 5 and 24: "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.... For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."

So, in the religious world also we find signs of the eminent return of Christ: false christs, false prophets proclaiming a false message of salvation. All of us have heard of false christs, agents of Satan, who rise up in these last days claiming to be the Son of the living God who has come back for His people. It will all culminate in the one great, last deception when Satan himself is transformed into "an angel of light," and appears claiming to be Christ returned. See 2 Corinthians 11:14. Multitudes will follow after and go down to destruction with the originator of sin.

The Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:5 closes his list of last-day signs describing the people as "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." The tremendous increase in the popularity of religion and of church membership testifies of a great revival, not of true godliness, but of a form of godliness only.

In our self-righteous pride, we in America point to atheistic Russia, that godless nation where 70,000 churches have been closed, where the slogan is "Down with Jesus Christ!" and where atheism is taught in the schools. Now a more tolerant attitude toward Christianity has swept the communist countries, and we hope restitution will be made for past intolerance. But what about here in America? Are we any better off? Liberalism and modernism pose in the garb of Christianity. Christians deny the divinity of Christ, the miracles of Christ, the vicarious death of Christ, the resurrection, ascension, the second coming of Christ, and even the existence of God. In 2 Peter 3:3,4 we read: "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the LAST DAYS scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?" Groping about in the blindness of his own human conjecturings, man seems to be oblivious to the statement of Jesus that "In such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh."

This form of godliness that seems to grip our modern generation is demonstrated by the fact that in one night club alone in New York City more money is taken in in one year than all that is given to missions in all the churches in our great nation in that same period. Think, too, of the 100 million theater tickets that are sold weekly, while only 10 per cent of that total number of people attend church each week.

Pointing again to the day in which we live, Jesus made another prediction. "And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." Luke 21:11. Here is a prophecy of the great natural disasters that today engulf the world, taking their tragic toll of millions of lives every year. An editorial appeared in a large daily newspaper in which the editor made this interesting comment: "An appalling series of catastrophes have come upon mankind lately with such suddenness and in so many places as to shock even the most cynical into anxious thoughtfulness. Look back over days, let alone weeks, scores killed, hundreds maimed, thousands homeless and impoverished. It seems hardly possible to pick up a daily paper or turn the radio on without hearing of some fresh mass disaster. And all this," said the editor, "against a sinister background of wars and rumors of wars." Surely the upheavals of nature through the power of Satan will continue to destroy to a greater degree than ever before in the history of the world.

Another remarkable sign of the coming of Christ is found in Daniel 12:4: In the last days "many shall run to and fro" and "knowledge shall be increased."

In all fields of study, physiology, psychology, physics, genetics, and medicine, man has made tremendous strides, indicating that this twentieth century is indeed the closing hour of history.

For generations, yes, for thousands of years, men continued to carry on the activities of life in the same old way. Then, suddenly, everything changed. Almost daily announcements of fantastic developments in the field of science no longer shock us. For an example, we see what has happened in the field of explosives. The ancient Chinese invented gunpowder, and for generations man could find no more potent force. Then came TNT from nitroglycerine. This was considered to be a great step forward. Then, in 1945, everything changed. We entered the atomic era. A new source of power was unleashed. Before that, the blockbuster, made up of TNT, had approximately an explosive force equivalent to six tons, but the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima was equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT. But not long after that the hydrogen bomb, which had to be measured not in kilotons as was the ordinary bomb, but megatons, the standard of measurement equaling one million tons of TNT, shocked the world. Today the world has such mega weapons that can hardly be imagined or described.

Going back to Daniel's prophecy of Daniel 12:4, he said that not only would knowledge increase in the last days, but that "many shall run to and fro." Think of it! In Noah's time man could travel only as fast as a horse could carry him. In Abraham's time man could travel only as fast as a horse could carry him. In Moses' time the same was true. Coming down to Nero's time, a man could travel only as fast as a horse could travel. In Columbus' time and in grandfather's time, just a few years ago so to speak, man could still travel only as fast as a horse could carry him.

But then everything changed. There came the automobile, increasing speed to thirty miles an hour; the railroad to 100 miles an hour; the airplane at the beginning of World War II, 200 miles an hour. By the end of the war 470 miles an hour was top secret. By 1957 that speed had increased to 1600 miles per hour. Today's speed through space is limited only by the size and strength of powerful rocket engines which boost men into higher and higher orbits outside our oxygen atmosphere. Truly, the end of all things is near at hand.

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