Sabbath, December 28, 2013
“I appeal to the members of our churches not to disregard the fulfilling of the signs of the times, which say so plainly that the end is near….
“The things that concern our eternal welfare are now to absorb our attention. We cannot afford to give heavenly things the second place….
“The judgments of God are in the land. They speak in solemn warning, saying, ‘Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.’ ” –Maranatha, pp. 39, 106.
The Lord speaks through signs of the times
1. What is often mentioned in the ancient writings of the prophets? What did Stephen tell about what God did in the time of the exodus from Egypt?
Exodus 10:2 And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the Lord.
Psalm 135:9 Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants.
Daniel 6:27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.
Acts 7:36 He brought them out, after that he had showed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years.
Thought question: What is the Lord’s purpose in bringing about special events?
“I appeal to the members of our churches not to disregard the fulfilling of the signs of the times, which say so plainly that the end is near. O, how many who have not cared for the salvation of their souls will soon make the bitter lamentation, ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!’…
“There are many, many in our churches who know little of the real meaning of the truth for this time. I appeal to them not to disregard the fulfilling of the signs of the times, which say so plainly that the end is near. O how many who have not sought their soul’s salvation will soon make the bitter lamentation, ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved.’ ” –Maranatha, pp. 39, 106.
Counsel from the Lord
2. According to Jesus’ statement, what is important when such special events take place? Did the Jews appreciate and understand these signs?
Matthew 16:3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
“We need keen, sanctified perception. This perception is not to be used in criticizing and condemning one another, but in discerning the signs of the times. We are to keep our hearts with all diligence that we may not make shipwreck of faith. Those who neglect to watch and pray in these days of peril; those who neglect to unite with their brethren in seeking the Lord, but who stand aloof from God’s appointed agencies in the church, are in grave danger of strengthening themselves in their own way, following the impulses of their own minds, and of refusing to heed the admonitions of the Lord….” –In Heavenly Places, p. 97.
The disciples’ interest
3. What did the disciples ask Jesus shortly before the end of His mission? What did Jesus say would happen to the beloved temple?
Matthew 24:1, 2 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, 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.
“As Christ’s attention was attracted to the magnificence of the temple, what must have been the unuttered thoughts of that Rejected One! The view before Him was indeed beautiful, but He said with sadness, I see it all. The buildings are indeed wonderful. You point to these walls as apparently indestructible; but listen to My words: The day will come when ‘there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.’ ” –The Desire of Ages, p. 627.
4. What statement of Jesus concerning the temple was of particular interest to His disciples? What did they ask Him when they were outside the town in the mount of Olives?
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?
Thought question: For whom was prophecy given?
“Christ’s words had been spoken in the hearing of a large number of people; but when He was alone, Peter, John, James, and Andrew came to Him as He sat upon the Mount of Olives. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?’ Jesus did not answer His disciples by taking up separately the destruction of Jerusalem and the great day of His coming. He mingled the description of these two events. Had He opened to His disciples future events as He beheld them, they would have been unable to endure the sight. In mercy to them He blended the description of the two great crises, leaving the disciples to study out the meaning for themselves. When He referred to the destruction of Jerusalem, His prophetic words reached beyond that event to the final conflagration in that day when the Lord shall rise out of His place to punish the world for their iniquity, when the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain. This entire discourse was given, not for the disciples only, but for those who should live in the last scenes of this earth’s history.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 628.
5. In response to their questions, what was the first warning He gave them? Who will pretend to be God’s messengers?
Matthew 24:4, 5 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
“Turning to the disciples, Christ said, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.’ Many false messiahs will appear, claiming to work miracles, and declaring that the time of the deliverance of the Jewish nation has come. These will mislead many. Christ’s words were fulfilled. Between His death and the siege of Jerusalem many false messiahs appeared. But this warning was given also to those who live in this age of the world. The same deceptions practiced prior to the destruction of Jerusalem have been practiced through the ages, and will be practiced again.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 628.
Signs in society
6. What other very troubling events would take place, according to the prophecy given by Jesus?
Matthew 24:6-8 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours 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.
“Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, men wrestled for the supremacy. Emperors were murdered. Those supposed to be standing next the throne were slain. There were wars and rumors of wars. ‘All these things must come to pass,’ said Christ, ‘but the end of the Jewish nation as a nation 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.’ Christ said, As the rabbis see these signs, they will declare them to be God’s judgments upon the nations for holding in bondage His chosen people. They will declare that these signs are the token of the advent of the Messiah. Be not deceived; they are the beginning of His judgments. The people have looked to themselves. They have not repented and been converted that I should heal them. The signs that they represent as tokens of their release from bondage are signs of their destruction.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 628, 629.
God’s people tested
7. What else did the Saviour tell His beloved disciples would happen before the destruction of Jerusalem? What do we know about how the church was hated and persecuted?
Matthew 24:9 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.
Acts 8:1 And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
“All this the Christians suffered. Fathers and mothers betrayed their children. Children betrayed their parents. Friends delivered their friends up to the Sanhedrin. The persecutors wrought out their purpose by killing Stephen, James, and other Christians.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 629.
“From Olivet the Saviour beheld the storms about to fall upon the apostolic church; and penetrating deeper into the future, His eye discerned the fierce, wasting tempests that were to beat upon His followers in the coming ages of darkness and persecution. In a few brief utterances of awful significance He foretold the portion which the rulers of this world would mete out to the church of God. Matthew 24:9, 21, 22. The followers of Christ must tread the same path of humiliation, reproach, and suffering which their Master trod. The enmity that burst forth against the world’s Redeemer would be manifested against all who should believe on His name.” –The Great Controversy, p. 39.
8. Nevertheless, what comforting reassurance did the Lord give concerning such serious tests?
Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
“Through trials and persecution, the glory–character–of God is revealed in His chosen ones. The church of God, hated and persecuted by the world, are educated and disciplined in the school of Christ. They walk in narrow paths on earth; they are purified in the furnace of affliction. They follow Christ through sore conflicts; they endure self-denial and experience bitter disappointments; but their painful experience teaches them the guilt and woe of sin, and they look upon it with abhorrence. Being partakers of Christ’s sufferings, they are destined to be partakers of His glory. In holy vision the prophet saw the triumph of the people of God.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 31.
“The signs of the times fulfilling all around us show us that the end of all things is at hand. Intense earnestness should take possession of us. Our slumbering energies should be aroused by persevering effort….
“How strange it is that those who have had the light of truth for so many years have not carried the torch of truth into the dark places of the earth. The whole world is astir. The Lord calls upon His people to awake out of sleep. My brethren and sisters, stop criticizing others, but criticize severely your own words and motives. We have no time to spend in using the enemy’s methods…. Envy, malice, hatred, unbelief, which have been growing into sturdy plants in the garden of the soul, are to be uprooted and cast out, and their place supplied by love, patience, forbearance, kindness, benevolence, tenderheartedness, meekness….” –The Upward Look, p. 79.