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    CHAPTER 22. The Signs of the Times

    1. A SIGN is defined to be “that by which anything is made known or represented; that which furnishes evidence; a mark; a token; an indication; a proof; hence, specifically, (a) A remarkable event considered by the ancients as indicating the will of some deity; a prodigy; an omen. (b) An event considered by the Jews as indicating the divine will, or as manifesting an interposition of the divine power for some special end.” - Webster.SYNPT 219.1

    2. A sign “of the times” must therefore be some event which indicates that we have reached a certain period in the world’s history made important by events then transpiring or next to transpire in chronological order. But neither the time nor the events would or could be recognized by the world unless some prophecy had been given showing what events would stand as signs, and setting forth the nature of the time marked by them. The whole matter, therefore, rests on the declarations of prophecy; and every sign is a fulfillment of prophecy.SYNPT 219.2

    1. What is a sign?
    2. What is a sign of the times?
    3. How are we enabled to recognize the signs?
    4. What does every sign fulfill?
    5. For what purpose is prophecy given?

    3. But prophecy is given for a specific purpose. It has reference mainly to the fact that human history is at some time to come to an end, and human kingdoms to be succeeded by the kingdom of God. It is that which constitutes the Scriptures “a lamp to our feet and a light to our path,” that path that spans the period of human probation from its earliest dawn to its setting sun. It is given to show where the world is in reference to the initial and terminal points of its history, - how much is past and how much is to come, - that men may understand when the great day of all days, the day of the Lord, and the coronation of the King of kings is at hand. Therefore the primal object of every sign is to show the coming of that day when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.SYNPT 219.3

    6. What makes the Scriptures a lamp to our feet?
    7. What is the relation of prophecy to history?
    8. What is, therefore, the primal object of every sign?
    9. What prophecies may be mentioned as signs?
    10. What signs in the solar system were predicted?
    11. What Scriptures refer to these?

    4. As here indicated, the subject of the signs of the times is an exceeding broad one. It covers the whole field of prophecy. Indeed, every fulfillment of prophecy is a sign of the times. The rise and fall of the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7, the ten kingdoms of Western Rome, the little horn, the papal power, the termination of every prophetic period, the seven trumpets, the drying up of the Turkish power, symbolized by the great river Euphrates, the rise and progress of our own country, are all signs of the times. And through all these we can say of a surety that the signs indicate that the great day of the Lord is at hand. But we designed to speak more particularly of another class of signs consisting chiefly of startling and striking events, commencing with -SYNPT 220.1

    5. Signs in the sun, moon, and stars. “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars.” Luke 21:25. Other scriptures tell us of what, in these cases, the signs should consist; namely, the sun and moon should not give their light, and the stars should fall from heaven. See Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24, 25; Joel 2:31; Revelation 6:12. It is natural that we should look for events of this nature to mark the approach of that awful hour which shall fix the eternal destiny of every member of the human family. Said Martin Luther, “A something strikingly awful shall forewarn that the world shall come to an end, and that the last day is even at the door.”SYNPT 221.1

    12. What did Martin Luther say respecting these?
    13. When was the sun darkened?
    14. When was the sign in the moon fulfilled?
    15. When did the stars fall?
    16. What objection is here raised?
    17. How is it answered?
    18. Of what prophecy in the Revelation are these signs a part?

    The sun was darkened May 19, 1780, the moon the following night; and the stars of heaven fell Nov. 13, 1833. But, says the objector, there have been other darkenings of the sun; hence that cannot be a sign. Wait a moment. Prophecy not only points out the sign, but also the time when it should take place. Mark’s record says, “In those days, after that tribulation.” “Those days” refer to the days of papal supremacy, which terminated in 1798. The “tribulation” refers to the oppression of the church by the papacy, which was not so restrained as to fulfill the prophecy till after the middle of the eighteenth century. Somewhere, then, between the years 1750 and 1798 we look for this sign.SYNPT 221.2

    But we are allowed to be a little more definite. The signs now under examination are a part of the events of the sixth seal of Revelation 6, and follow the great earthquake which marked the opening of that seal. That earthquake was the great earthquake of Lisbon, Nov. 1, 1755. Between this year and 1798 were forty-three years. Somewhere in this brief space we look for the sign in the sun. Was there in this time any other darkening of the sun except that of May 19, 1780? - None. Was there ever so notable an event of this kind, either in extent or intensity? - Never. Then that was the sign. Too deny it is to be willfully ignorant.SYNPT 222.1

    19. How and when was the opening of the sixth seal indicated?
    20. How many years from this point to 1798?
    21. Where, then, do we look for the sign in the sun?
    22. What was the only darkening in this time?
    23. How do some attempt to explain it?
    24. What is M. Bostwick’s testimony?
    25. What does Mrs. A. Bailey testify?
    26. How does the Concord People speak of it?
    27. What inquiry sprung to many lips?

    Some have attempted to account for it on the ground that high winds brought up heavy clouds that obscured the sun; but an eye-witness, Milo Bostwick, writing from Camden, N.J., March 3, 1848, says “There were not any clouds, but the air was thick,” etc., and another eye-witness, Mrs. Abigail Bailey, of Vermont, says: “No distinct cloud was visible. There was no motion of the air sufficient to move a leaf, and darkness overshadowed the earth.” The Concord (N.H.) People speaks of it as “not the blackness of the storm cloud,” but “the silent spreading of the pall-cloth over the earth by strong, invisible hands.” The inquiry was upon many lips, “Is the Judgment day approaching? The poet Whittier writes concerning it: “All ears grew sharp to hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter the black sky.” No one has ever been able to account for this phenomenon on natural principles. Webster’s Dictionary (1870) says: “The true cause of this remarkable phenomenon is not known.” It falls within the realm of the supernatural, and thus stands as a solemn sign hung out in the heavens to notify the world that God had not forgotten his promise, but was about to send Jesus to gather his people to himself, and destroy those who would not have him to reign over them.SYNPT 222.2

    The moon was darkened the following night. The same cause which obscured the light of the sun would have the same effect upon the light of the moon. The moon fulled that night; but a portion of the time it gave no light. The darkness of the night is described by some as the deepest ever witnessed “since the Almighty fiat gave birth to light.” It was only equaled, possibly, by that Egyptian darkness in the days of Moses, which could be felt. Exodus 10:21. And when the moon did finally show itself, it bore the appearance described in Revelation 6:12.SYNPT 223.1

    28. What does Webster say concerning the cause of this sign?
    29. What was the phase of the moon on the following night?
    30. How is the darkness described?
    31. How extensive was the star shower of Nov. 13, 1833?

    The prediction of the falling stars was fulfilled in the great meteoric shower of Nov. 13, 1833, which covered no inconsiderable portion of the earth’s surface. Signor Schiaparelli (Christian Union, May 1, 1872) received of the British Royal Astronomical Society in February, 1872, a gold medal “for his researches upon the nature and orbits of meteors, which have helped to demonstrate that these bodies belong to the stellar region, and are, in fact, falling stars.” The Connecticut Observer of Nov. 25, 1833, copied from the Old Countryman as follows:-SYNPT 223.2

    “We pronounce the raining of fire, which we saw on Wednesday morning last, an awful type, a sure forerunner, a merciful sign, of that great and dreadful day ... described not only in the New Testament but in the Old. A more correct picture of a fig-tree casting its leaves when blown by a mighty wind, it is not possible to behold.”SYNPT 224.1

    6. In answer to the question put by the disciples to our Saviour, “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?” he incidentally, before coming to the definite answer, makes this declaration: “There shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in divers places.”SYNPT 224.2

    While such visitations would not particularly indicate the nearness of the end, their abnormal occurrence in this dispensation has a bearing upon our subject by demonstrating the truthfulness of Christ’s words. Moreover, we are left free to infer, from the connection in which they are spoken, that such events would increase in frequency and virulence as we draw near the end, and thus become indirect heralds of the coming of the King.SYNPT 224.3

    32. What may these meteors properly be called?
    33. What did the Old Countryman say concerning it?
    34. What does Christ say of famines, pestilences, etc?
    35. What bearing have these upon the subject of the prophecy?
    36. What general fact appears in history concerning them?

    From accessible records it would appear that events of this kind have been excessive since the words of Christ quoted above were spoken. Thus in a work by Noah Webster, published in 1779, it is shown that between the years A.D. 96 and 1755 twenty-four million and thirteen thousand human beings perished by earthquake, famine, and pestilence, besides a destruction of one-third of the human race by three months of earthquakes and pestilence in the year 1005. The enumeration above named gives us an average of nearly a million and a half of deaths annually. If any other equal period of the world’s history can show such a death rate from these agencies, we have yet to see the record of it.SYNPT 224.4

    The regular numerical increase of earthquakes as the centuries have gone by, is something very remarkable. Eld. D.T. Taylor, in his “Coming Earthquake,” quotes a table from Ponton and Mallett, giving the number of recorded earthquakes from 1700 B.C. to 1868 A.D. arranged in six periods as follows:-SYNPT 225.1

    No. Years Average
    Those recorded before A.D. 158 1700 1 in 29 years
    Thence to the end of 9th century, 197 800 1 ” 4 “
    “ “ “ 15th “ 532 600 1 “ 1 “
    “ “ “ 18th “ 2804 300 9 “ 1 “
    “ “ “ 1850 “ 3240 50 64 “ 1 “
    “ “ “ 1860 “ 5000 18 277 “ 1 “

    Of such earthquakes as have overthrown cities, and destroyed many lives, the record runs about as follows:-SYNPT 225.2

    No. Years Average
    From B.C. 1700 to A.D. 96 16 1796 1 in 112 years
    “ A.D. 96 ” 1850 204 1754 1 “ 8 “
    “ 1850 ” 1865 15 15 1 “ 1 “
    “ 1865 ” 1868 15 3 5 “ 1 “

    37. What may be said of the increase of earthquakes?
    38. What is Joel’s prediction?

    “In the single year 1868 over 100,000 persons perished by earthquakes. In January, 1869, there were eleven, earthquakes, two of them great and destructive.”SYNPT 226.1

    7. The prophet Joel (2:30), quoted by Peter (Acts 2:19), predicted “wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood and fire and pillars of smoke,” “before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” Again the response of history is, Fulfilled. The only difficulty is to give in small space an adequate idea of the many wonderful occurrences within the past fifty years. Sights have been witnessed which the papers have described in terms, a summary of which would read something like the following: “Extraordinary - singular - alarming - intense brightness - terrific fire - dark crimson vapor - most gorgeous - tremendous conflagration - volumes of smoke,” etc. A work called “Modern Phenomena of the Heavens,” by H. Jones, describes a scene Jan. 25, 1837, when “the very heavens seemed to be on fire.” “The snow resembled blood and fire.” “In one place near a mountain the people informed me that on the snow there was the appearance of ‘waves of fire rolling down the mountain.’ “SYNPT 226.2

    39. How has it been fulfilled?
    40. What may be said of the Aurora Borealis?
    41. What prediction have we concerning the sea and waves?

    8. The Aurora Borealis. This wonderful phenomenon has greatly increased within the last few years. The effect of its appearance in both Europe and America has been to fill the people with great alarm. It is looked upon as the precursor of the Judgment fires which are to consume the world.SYNPT 226.3

    9. The sea and the waves roaring. Luke 21:25. The great tidal waves are peculiar to this last half of the nineteenth century. Harper’s Magazine for 1869 says: “That most horrible phenomenon, the tidal wave, how many struggling mortals has it swept back into the deep! What countless ships has it crushed against the shores! What mighty cities has it plundered of life and wealth, strewing their streets with ocean sand, and peopling their palaces with sea monster!” Our readers will remember the awful catastrophes at Lima and Arica, Peru. The N.Y. Tribune of Nov. 12, 1868, said:-SYNPT 227.1

    “The tidal disturbances are the most remarkable and extensive of which there is any record. It is said that their velocity is about a thousand miles an hour. Both the great ocean waters of the Atlantic and Pacific have been agitated in their whole extent. We mention in particular the tidal waves at St. Thomas and all the neighboring islands, which were full fifty feet in hight.... It is said by those who have witnessed these waves that the ocean’s roar is exceedingly frightful.”SYNPT 227.2

    Under this head would also come the long and rapidly augmenting list of ocean disasters. These will be sufficiently indicated by the fact that between the year 1865 and 1875, the United States marine suffered the loss of 2,821 vessels, valued at $129,067,700. During the one year 1870, the losses throughout the world were 1,887 vessels.SYNPT 227.3

    42. How has it been fulfilled?
    43. What other events would come under this head?
    44. Name some statistics.
    45. What land disturbances correspond to these?

    Corresponding to these disturbances on the ocean are the tornadoes, cloud-bursts, and cyclones on the land, which have of late reached such frequency and destructiveness. And to these may be added the great fires, which are acknowledged to be entirely phenomenal. The reader will at once recall Chicago, Peshtigo, Manistee, White Rock, and many towns on Lakes Michigan and Huron. The “air seemed to be on fire. Great sheets of flame enveloped them like a cloud, and moved with the rapidity of a hurricane.” Clouds of fire seemed to burst and scatter death around. Balls of fire were seen revolving and bursting in every direction. Many thought the last day had come, and perished without being undeceived. And now, as if in mocking contrast, come the unparalleled floods of to-day, floods in Europe and floods in America, swallowing thousands in a watery grave, driving other thousands from their homes, and sweeping away millions of property.SYNPT 228.1

    46. What may be said of the recent great fires?
    47. What of subsequent floods?
    48. What was to mark the last days pecuniarily?
    49. What does the Religious Intelligencer say?
    50. What is H.W. Beecher’s testimony?
    51. What was to be the political condition of the world?

    10. In the last days there was to be a great manifestation of covetousness, and vast accumulations of wealth by the rich. James 5:1-5. The Religious Intelligencer of Jan. 26, 1883, says: “Fifteen Americans are said to own $920,000,000,” the highest on the list being W.H. Vanderbilt, with $260,000,000. H.W. Beecher says: “The development of wealth is now greater in amount, greater in scope, and greater in extent, than ever before.” No one can dispute this; hence no one can deny the fulfillment of the prophecy.SYNPT 228.2

    11. The political condition of the world. “Wars and rumors of wars,” says one prophecy. Matthew 24:6. “The nations were angry,” says another, when the seventh trumpet began to sound. Revelation 11:18. Europe is a vast arsenal. Working men are taxed to the last extremity to support enormous standing armies. The people feel that they are treading upon a mine, the control of which rests with a few men whose purposes they cannot fathom. Yet with all this preparation for war, all this suspicion and jealousy, all the mutterings and threatenings, peace still in general continues; for another prophecy says that the winds of strife must be held till the servants of God are sealed.SYNPT 229.1

    12. The moral condition of the religious world. The outlook in this direction shows one of the most striking of signs. In many prophecies the condition of religionists in the last days is described. A great declension in spiritual power was predicted. They would love pleasure more than they would love God. They would harbor in their hearts and in their communion the grossest sins, yet cling tenaciously to a form of godliness. Where do we look for pride, display, extravagance, and carnal amusements in the greatest excess, but to the religious world? Between them and the non-professing world, the line is entirely lost.SYNPT 229.2

    52. In what do we see a fulfillment?
    53. What does the world’s moral outlook present?
    54. Where are pride extravagance and the grossest sins to be found?
    55. What last great deception was to appear?

    13. The last great deception which was to go forth to ensnare those who reject the truth and have pleasure in unrighteousness, just before the Lord appears, has for many years been abroad in the land. Its name is spiritualism. It is in its preliminary stages of development among all nations. With its abolition of all spiritual restraint, its denial of all distinction between right and wrong, and of all moral responsibility, with its pleasing fables and license to sin, it promises full play to man’s lower nature here, and yet the possession of all good hereafter. Thus it finds willing votaries among those who will not put off the carnal mind, who shun the cross and despise the truth. It is now specially engaged in arraying itself in Christian garbs, when it will find easy conquest among the religionists described above. It is to show greater wonders than have yet appeared; and in the hight of its working, Christ will appear. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11.SYNPT 229.3

    56. What is its present phase?
    57. In what is it now specially arraying itself?
    58. What is to be its future?
    59. What true religious movement is set down for the last days?

    14. The last message of mercy and warning which is to go to the world before the Lord returns, has also been for many years in the land. Revelation 14:9-12. It is going by land and by sea, at home and abroad. More than two hundred and fifty million pages of its truths have already gone forth on their mission. It is all equipment for the accomplishment of a mighty work in a brief space of time. It is daily growing in strength. Its loud cry is the close of probation; and as it finishes its testimony, one like the Son of man appears upon the great white cloud, coming to reap the harvest of the earth. Revelation 14:14.SYNPT 230.1

    Where, then, are the signs of promise? Rather where are they not? Heavens and earth are full of them. The last nation that is to go down as Christ takes his throne, is sinking rapidly to its dissolution. The last that are to take part in earth’s closing scenes, are hastening to their final acts. The last influences for both good and evil are moving swiftly forward to the culmination of their work. Not one sign is wanting. God’s word can never fail. The day of the Lord is at hand.SYNPT 231.1

    60. What is its present stage of development?

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