Key Studies In Discerning the Times
Keys To Discerning the Times - Study Two!
Last week we began a series of lessons entitled "Discerning the Times." That title was prompted by a question Christ asked the people of His day, "O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Evidently God wants us to understand and be able to interpret the signs of the times. Never was that ability more important than today.
Many people are confused and troubled by things they read about and see happening all around them. They are apprehensive about the future. Repeatedly they ask, "What's going on? Why does everything seem to be out of control? Where is the old sense of stability? How can we discern the significance of the events and the trends we see developing in the world today?"
God has given us the prophetic Scriptures for precisely that purpose. We have, as the Apostle Peter says, "A more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place." In that "more sure word of prophecy", -God tells us what will take place on this earth after Christ completes and removes His true church. There are no Bible prophecies to be fulfilled before the appearing of Christ to remove His true church. But after the true church is removed a whole sequence of momentous events is predicted to take place. The trends we see developing today are preparing the way for their fulfillment. In these talks we are examining those trends in three different spheres - the international political sphere, the economic and financial sphere, and the religious sphere.
In the last lesson we made a start on the international political scene. I pointed out that in chapter 8 of the Prophecy of Daniel we are told that after the removal of Christ's true church and before the predicted Antichrist emerges on the world scene, there will be a major clash between nations of the Eastern hemisphere and those of the Western hemisphere.
The Eastern nations were depicted in Daniel's prophetic vision as a ram with two horns, the greater of which came up last. The ram is pictured as pushing westward and southward and northward - note the word "pushing." Such language suggests a form of steady, persistent aggression, not necessarily open military conflict. It could be, or at least include, economic and political pushing such as an aggressive trade war.
The two present major nations of the Eastern hemisphere are Japan, with her extensive post-war industrial development and aggressive export trade policy, and China, the homeland of nearly one-fifth of the world's population. China could well be the ram's horn that developed last but became greater than the first.
Daniel 8 goes on to say, this pushing westward and northward and southward by the ram representing a union of the two horns or Eastern hemisphere nations will be brought to a halt by the combined power of Western hemisphere nations symbolized in Daniel's prophetic vision by a he goat with one notable horn between his eyes, indicating a union of Western nations under one supreme head or command.
The description of the he goat is significant. It reads, "An he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground- (this sounds like the employment of what is commonly referred to today as "star wars" technology ). The prophecy goes on, " He came to the ram that had two horns, ...and ran unto him in the fury of his power. ... 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."
Perhaps the most significant thing we are told about this future East-West conflict is its aftermath. Daniel 8:8 says that after the conflict the he goat, representing the union of Western nations, "waxed very great. and when he was strong, the great horn was broken ( that indicates that the union will breakdown); and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven." - Evidently the union of expediency formed by Western hemisphere nations to stop the Eastern hemisphere aggression will break up into four major world powers.
But listen to what the prophet says next:Daniel 8:9-11 : "Out of one of them came forth a little horn (remember, horns, in the symbolic language of Scripture, represent constituted power or authorities), there came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great... And he magnified himself- (note the little horn is personified). He "waxed exceeding great" and "he magnified himself ... and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away......" This you will recognize as a reference to the Antichrist, who, we are told in Daniel chapters 9 and 11, will make a covenant with Israel guaranteeing the restoration of their Temple in Jerusalem and the restoration of their daily Temple sacrifice, only to break the agreement and take away the daily sacrifice, and place in the Temple what both Daniel and Christ refer to as the "abomination of desolation" possibly the image of himself described in Revelation 13.
The prophecy of Ezekiel identifies the Antichrist with Magog. Meshech, and Tubal, are all Russian place-names. The Antichrist will emerge out of one of the four world powers resulting from the break-up of the union of nations formed to halt the aggressive expansion policies of Eastern hemisphere nations. The Magog, Meshech, and the Tubal reference, plus the fact that the Antichrist is referred to symbolically as having the feet of a bear and as a king of the north, and is identified in a number of prophecies with a mighty world power to the north of Palestine, seems to indicate that the world power referred to may well be the Russia of the future.
If this is so, then the Russia must be one of the nations that will unite with the Western democracies to halt the future Eastern hemisphere aggression. Until recently, any suggestion that Russia would co-operatively unite under one head with Britain or France, and especially with the U.S.A., would have sounded ridiculous. But in the light of the new attitude of the Russian leadership toward the West it is not hard to envisage such a union taking place when circumstances dictate it would be in Russia's best interests.
The current trend toward a new era of agreement and co-operation between the world's two superpowers takes on a new significance and meaning in the light of the prophecies of Daniel that such a union would in fact take place when, at some future date, the economic and national security of the Western hemisphere nations is threatened by Eastern hemisphere economic, and possibly military, aggression.
There is another political and economic realignment of nations currently taking place that likewise has prophetic significance. For years the term East-West has been used to describe the political and ideological division between the world's superpowers. We are accustomed to speaking of the free Western world nations and the Eastern communist nations behind the Iron Curtain. The alignment has been "East-West."
But now the Iron Curtain is crumbling. In fact, parts of the Curtain already have been torn down. The East-West designation of nations is becoming obsolete. At the same time, we are hearing more and more about a North-South panorama of nations. The term "North" is now frequently applied to the industrialized, developed nations, and the term "South" to the underdeveloped, underprivileged nations of the earth. A typical example is a recent article in the prestigious magazine, Foreign Affairs by the president of the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa, entitled "South-North Dangers," in which he states, "The status quo is unsustainable. Either the North makes a comprehensive attempt to help the South solve its problems, or the South's problems will become ours. Environmental degradation, economic uncertainty, social unrest, and political instability - these problems, unless solved, could precipitate a world war."
When you read statements like that, the words of the Prophet Daniel immediately come to mind. Listen to this prediction in Daniel 11:6, "in the end of years ... the king's daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm" Daniel 11:11, "And the king of the south shall be moved with choler, and shall come forth and fight with ... the king of the north: and he shall set forth a great multitude; but the multitude shall be given into his hand."
Daniel 11:13-15, "The king of the north shall return, and shall ... certainly come after certain years with a great army and with much riches. And in those times there shall many stand up against the king of the south.... So the king of the north shall come, and cast up a mount, and take the most fenced cities: and the arms of the south shall not withstand"
From all this, one thing seems clear. There is going to be in the future a time of conflict between nations of the North and the South - the very terms that are coming into common usage today.
To these trends must be added the significance of the emerging United States of Europe (E.U.) which currently is moving toward greater economic and political union and sovereignty. Daniel 7 paints this symbolic picture of the future Antichrist: "I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; ...and it had ten horns." The emerging United States of Europe (E.U.) may well be the fore-runner of that future ten-power confederacy which the Antichrist will use as a stepping-stone toward his attainment of the position of supreme head of a future world government.
In closing, let me recap the current trends in the international political sphere that we have discussed:
(1) The developing new co-operative relationship between the former Soviet Union and the Western democracies.
- (2) The growing recognition that in the future North-South relationships will become a focal point in international affairs, just as East-West relationships have dominated the past. And
- (3) the trend toward a sovereign United States of Europe (E.U.).
You can readily see the prophetic significance of these trends in the light of the future developments predicted in the prophetic Scriptures. That these trends already are well advanced indicates that the great international events they foreshadow are very near at hand.
I remind you once more that before any of those events take place Christ will appear in person and remove His true church from this earth. The Scriptures make that abundantly clear. "The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them ... to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
In that glorious moment, every genuine child of God will be removed before the ultimate collapse of the political, social, economic, and financial systems of today, and the Godless Antichrist takes over the management of national and international affairs as the supreme head of a totalitarian world government.
Your greatest concern should be to make certain that you are numbered among those who will be removed at Christ's appearing. It is tragic that so many people today are mistaking a mere mental acknowledgement of Christ's life and death and resurrection for genuine, soul-saving Christianity. There is more to becoming a True Christian than merely saying you believe in Christ.
True Christianity begins with the acknowledgement of your sinfulness - your rebellion and disobedience and the fact that because of your sins you are spiritually dead and condemned eternally unless you are sincerely Repentant, Biblically Baptized and Spiritually Reborn by the One, True Holy Spirit of God and receive His forgiveness by coming to the resurrected, living Christ as a guilty, helpless, condemned sinner, and receiving Him not only as your Saviour but also as the sovereign Lord of your life.
The evidence of the realism of your genuine belief and your genuine repentance from sin is the transformation of life that comes from such a new, living relationship with Jesus Christ. Where there is a genuine spiritual new birth, there always is a change of course and a transformation of life.
What about you? Do you merely profess to be a Christian while continuing to live a life of rebellion and disobedience and indulgence in, and conformity to, the desires and lusts of the flesh and the lifestyle of the unbelieving world?
May God help you to make your calling and election sure. If you have any doubts about your standing with God, come to Christ now and ask Him to forgive your sins and give you a new, spiritual nature born of God, which is the key to eternal life.
May God help you.
Go To Lesson Three - Keys to Discerning the Times - Study Three!