Quite obviously, the world faces some very serious problems. Most days bring bad news, and things seem to be getting worse.
On a national scale, war and terrorism are on the increase. And at a personal level, we see lack of respect for any form of authority. Parents fear for their children’s future. Elderly people fear for their own safety.
The very fabric of our society seems to be breaking down, and many people are frightened that this trend cannot be reversed.
But there is one source amongst us which has never misled us by encouraging false expectations. It is the Bible. Throughout the Bible human history is seen as ending in a great climax, frequently called “the time of the end” or “the last days”, and certain passages tell us quite clearly what those “last days” will be like. One of the clearest and most striking is in Luke 21. The disciples asked Jesus what would be the sign of his coming (they meant his return to the earth) and of “the end of the world” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus replies with a description of conditions which his followers would experience after his ascension to heaven. Then he speaks particularly of the Jewish people:
“They (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles (nations), until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24)
This is a most remarkable prophecy, all in one verse. Look what it says:
- The Jews were to suffer severely as a result of war. Forty years after Jesus’ ascension to heaven, in AD 70, the Roman armies invaded Judaea, destroyed the city of Jerusalem, burnt the temple, and expelled the Jews.
- Jews were driven into all the nations of the earth where for centuries they were persecuted; whole communities were sometimes exterminated.
- For centuries the city of Jerusalem fell under various national powers: the Romans, the Arabs, the Turks, and latterly the British.
- But the words of Jesus foretell an end to this domination by the nations. In 1948 the nation of Israel was re-established as a State in the land of Palestine; in 1967 Israel recovered control of the city of Jerusalem, which has become their national capital again.
In other words this remarkable prophecy of Jesus has actually been fulfilled in modern times. How important then must be what he says next:
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth, distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after (expectation of, RV) those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” (verses 25,26)