Key Studies In Discerning the Times
Keys to Discerning the Times - Study One
Christ once said angrily to the people of His day, ".... When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matt. 16:2-3)
God evidently intends that people should be able to discern the signs in the skies of the time that indicate what we may expect to happen in the future. They are called in Scripture the "signs of the times". Our ability to interpret the significance of the things we see developing in the world around us depends on our knowledge of what the future holds in store. That's why God gave us the prophetic Scriptures. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God," and that includes the prophetic Scriptures.
God is omniscient. He knows every detail of the future, and exactly when and how it will take place. In the prophetic Scriptures He has revealed the events of the future to the extent it is good for us to know. We do well to discover and give heed to what He has revealed.
Christ angrily rebuked those who were prone to doubt the authenticity of what God has made known through His chosen prophets. He said to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. " The Apostle Peter was inspired to write to those who are of Christ's church today, "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place ... for the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. "
A few weeks ago I asked if you would be interested in examining the prophetic significance of some of the trends and events in world affairs which are evident today. Your communications indicate that many of you would be, and that such analysis would be helpful in the decisions we all must make in the light of what is taking place. In seeking to respond to your interest, there are three things we must keep in mind.
I . We must guard against trying to be wise above what is written. That is, we must avoid unwarranted dogmatism when interpreting prophecies which give only a partial revelation of events to come. The Apostle Paul reminds us that at best we "see through a glass darkly" and "know only in part".
2. There are no Bible prophecies remaining to be fulfilled before the removal of Christ's true redeemed church from this earth. His predicted personal appearing to take His true church unto himself is the next Bible prophecy to be fulfilled. That glorious event may take place at any hour of any day, and when it does every true Christian who has died will be resurrected and every living believer changed and given a glorified resurrection body without having died. Then, all together, we will be caught up "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," to meet the Lord in the air, henceforth to be forever with Him. Whatever you do, make certain you are ready for Christ's appearing. If you have never done so before, open your heart and life to Him today and receive Him and His eternal salvation now, while the opportunity still is yours.
3. After the true church is Raptured or removed, a whole sequence of Bible prophecies will be fulfilled in the period between the translation of the true church and Christ's second coming to set up His millennial kingdom of heaven on this earth. Because many of the events which will take place in that period are of world magnitude and importance, it is understandable that during the latter years of this present church age there will be the world developments necessary to pave the way for what God predicts will take place after Christ's true church is removed. It is well said that coming events cast their shadows before them.
If we are observant, we will see certain trends developing in world affairs in advance of the stupendous events foretold for the future. We do well to keep our eyes open to detect such trends as they emerge. They are the signs of which Christ spoke when He said we should be able to discern the signs of the times. I believe we can profit from taking a close look at some of the significant trends developing today in the international political sphere, in the economic and financial sphere, and in the religious sphere. Let's make a start today, and we'll carry on in future lessons, God willing.
Let's begin with the international political scene. One of the very significant recent developments is the upheaval taking place in the former communist nations, particularly the former U.S.S.R., Poland, and the Baltic countries.
In the Baltic countries, which had been under communist domination for half a century, there was a great upsurge of public demand for independence and an open revolt against communist control. A few years ago, such demonstrations for political freedom would have been crushed by Soviet military might. Today while there are still verbal threats and warnings there is no direct Russian military intervention.
Poland, for the first time in forty years, had won the right to at least partial free and democratic elections, resulting in the installation of the first non-communist government in four decades.
The most significant development of all is currently going on within the former Soviet Union itself. The political reforms proposed and introduced by Mikhail Gorbachev would have been unthinkable ten years ago - the election of dissidents to the Supreme Soviet; the tolerance of public and media dissent and public criticism of the Russian government; the removal of many of the restrictions on freedom of speech and movement; and the new attitude toward the democratic nations of the western world, especially the United States, which until recently was regarded and reviled by the former Soviet Union as the embodiment of decadent imperialism and the arch-enemy of world communism.
At this point in time, we do not know all the reasons behind this dramatic change. It would be naive to think that communism has undergone a genuine conversion to the principles of democracy and individual freedom. What seems the most probable cause of the dramatic change was the failure of the former communist economic system, and its obvious inability to provide for the material needs of the Russian people. It is a classic example of the inability of any socialistic form of society to operate an efficient economy.
Socialistic bureaucracies may be successful distributors (especially of other people's wealth), but the restrictions they impose on individual initiative and enterprise make it impossible for them to develop and maintain an adequate level of production to meet the needs of their people. It seems evident that under communism the Soviet economy had become a national disaster. There is, at last, recognition of the necessity for fundamental change and the adoption of an economic structure patterned after the western democracies, and that realization is driving the Russians into a new, more open relationship with those they had long denounced as imperialistic capitalists.
If this current trend continues, in the future, the former Soviet Union will be much more closely allied with the western democracies than could have been imagined a few years ago. It is this trend that has a definite prophetic significance.
In the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 8, there is an interesting prophecy foretelling a major future conflict between the eastern and western hemisphere nations after the True Church has been removed. In a vision, the prophet saw two beasts, one a ram, the other a he goat. He says in Daniel 8:3-4, "I lifted up mine eyes, and saw .. a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward (he obviously was coming from the east); so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great."
Now what have we here? Beasts are used symbolically in the Scriptures to represent temporal or political powers. The Antichrist repeatedly is referred to as "the beast." The ram apparently represents a future eastern political power bloc. He had two horns. Horns are used symbolically to represent political entities or powers. In Revelation 13 the Antichrist is described as a beast having "ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns." (He will be the head of a ten-power confederacy.) The ram Daniel saw had two horns, and the higher of the two came up last. Evidently the ram represents a combination of two eastern powers, one of which gained a position of greater power than the other over a period of time.
Now look at Daniel 8: 5-11, "As I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground (evidently his military technology will enable him to wage aerial warfare - rather interesting in the light of what we are hearing today about "star wars" technology), and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes. "
Daniel 8:6: "And he came to the ram that had two horns,..and ran unto him in the fury of his power...and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns ... and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand "
This seems to indicate a future major conflict between a union of two Eastern powers and the combined military aerial might of western nations united under one command represented by the single notable horns of the he goat. The conflict apparently will result from a policy of aggressive expansionism on the part of the two eastern hemisphere nations. The ram was pushing westward and northward and southward, until the western nations united under the one horn to halt the aggression. God willing, we will develop this in greater detail in the next lesson.
But before we close, let me call your attention to Daniel 8: 8-11 which describe the aftermath of the western hemisphere's victory. We read, "The he goat waxed very great. and when he was strong (that is, recovered from the conflict), the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great..." In Daniel 8:11, this horn is personified. It says "He magnified himself..and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down."'
This clearly identifies the "little horn" as the future "False Prophet" of the Antichrist who, as we noted in previous studies, will be instrumental in taking away Israel's Temple worship and daily sacrifice, precipitating what Christ said will be the greatest period of persecution and suffering Israel has ever known. He will cause all, both small and great to worship the beast, known as the Antichrist and to take his mark . The Antichrist is directly linked in Bible prophecy to Gog and Magog, the chief prince of Meshek (Moscow) and Tubal (Tubalsk), which are Russian place-names. The significant thing is that this future resurgence of Russian Soviet power, linked with the Antichrist, arises from a division of the western hemisphere powers following their successful thwarting of future eastern hemisphere aggression.
Evidently, the former Soviet power block of nations will temporally unite with the western democracies under the one great horn of the he goat, to successfully block aggression on the part of the eastern hemisphere two-power union represented by the ram with the two horns. After the East-West conflict, the union will break up and the Russian Soviet power bloc will again be on its own as one of the four world powers that will emerge from the break-up of the union represented by the he goat with the one horn.
Until very recently, it would have been difficult to believe that the former U.S.S.R. and their former satellite communist nations would ever unite with the United States and other western democracies as allies co-operating under one supreme command. But the recent developments which show a trend toward an ever-closer relationship with the free world throws a new light on the whole situation and give new significance to Daniel's prophecy of the union of the nations represented by the he goat with the one horn.
I remind you as we close this lesson that these significant, recent developments make clear that the pieces rapidly are falling into place to make possible the literal fulfillment of the many prophecies concerning the future realignment of nations and the emergence of the Antichrist on the world scene. The important thing is for you to be ready when Christ appears to remove His true church before these future trouble times come on those who will be "Left Behind."
The only way you can be ready is to acknowledge your sinfulness, your rebellion and disobedience and your need of God's forgiveness, and open your heart and life to Jesus Christ who died for your sins in your place on the Cross and receive Him and His salvation while the opportunity still is yours. You have that opportunity now, Don't miss it. Remember, whether your eternal destiny will be heaven or hell depends on your decision.
May God bless you.
Go To Lesson Two - Keys to Discerning the Times - Study Two!