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Signs of the End of the World

Signs of the End of the World
They just wouldn’t listen. Some of them even thought it was a joke. At a boarding school in the northern Thailand province of Chiang Rai, young elementary students were asleep one Sunday evening as a deadly danger crept upon them. Investigators believe a faulty fluorescent light broke and sparked a fire. Flames spread quickly, but not so fast that some of the students—as young as five years old—couldn’t be roused and warned about the danger.

The Bangkok Post newspaper reported, “Suchada Kong-arsa, an 11-year-old school girl who survived the tragedy … rushed back to wake up her friends and tell them to escape. ‘Most of them did not believe me and went back to sleep but others did and struggled to escape,’ she said.”

At least seventeen young students died in the fire.

It’s a tragedy, to be sure. But even at the last second, a warning was sounded, yet some wouldn’t, or couldn’t, listen. They had been in that dormitory for weeks, perhaps months. Every night they went to sleep, and perhaps on more than one occasion, pranksters tried to rouse them. The signs around them—frantic pleading, perhaps even the faint scent of smoke—just didn’t register.

Can such a tragedy be repeated, and exponentially magnified, as the world nears its final hours? The Bible says millions will ignore the signs of the times and pay a similarly fateful price.

If Jesus told His closest followers they could tell when His return is near, did He offer some concrete indicators—signs of the times? Yes! He certainly did:

“Take heed that no one deceives you. … You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:4, 6, 7).

Not every earthquake, famine, or war is a specific sign of His soon return. We’ve seen these tragedies repeat on a regular basis during the 2,000 years since Christ walked the earth. However, from Jesus’ words, we can expect to see a dramatic increase in the frequency and intensity of these calamities just before He comes back.

Let’s look at some of these signs in detail …

It’s difficult to switch on the television and not hear news about war and other conflict somewhere in the world. While the last century was perhaps one of the world’s bloodiest, with upwards of 100 million people killed, this new millennium isn’t off to a much better start. Of course, conflict continues to plague these regions.

  1. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States spawned a military invasion of Afghanistan. Eighteen months after 9/11, troops invaded Iraq. Each war lasted years—eight in Iraq, thirteen in Afghanistan—and each conflict left behind fractured regions in its wake, not to mention thousands upon thousands of deaths and injuries.

  2. Africa’s sub-Sahara region has seen continued war since the independence movements of the 1950s and 1960s. In the past thirty years, blood-stained conflicts in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Liberia, Somalia, and Sierra Leone—to name but a few—have left their mark. In Rwanda, horrific inter-tribal war between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes killed tens of thousands. In many places, sub-Saharan Africa remains a powder keg, capable of igniting at any moment.

  3. The Middle East, including Egypt, Libya, and Morocco, has been bathed in war for years. The “Arab Spring” of 2011 toppled established governments in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia and led to a massive civil war in Syria, as well as Yemen. Iraq remains in turmoil with civil war. Iran’s nuclear ambitions are of great concern in the region, worrying not only Israel—a nation its leaders have pledged to destroy—but also neighboring Saudi Arabia, a country with the means to field an invading army if needed.

  4. South Asia: Periodic clashes flare up between India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers; in Pakistan’s northwest regions, fighting with Taliban invaders continues. There are also continued clashes between South Korea and the nuclear-armed North Korea.

  5. Other contentious hotspots include Europe and the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine, where part of that nation was swallowed up by troops from the Russian Federation.

Nations surely are “rising against nations,” as this list of wars and conflicts demonstrates. Another threat comes from non-nations, such as the so-called “Islamic State.” This group has committed and encouraged terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, declaring that it is rising to destroy the West in a holy war to end all wars.

The current dramatic escalation in "wars and rumors of war" isn't fantasy—it's reality. According to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, an estimated “1.5 billion people live in regions haunted by violent conflicts, whose damage to the global economy is valued at 14.3 trillion U.S. dollars per year.” The same report indicated “over 30 million children are homeless because of wars, natural disasters, and other crises,” the highest number since the end of World War II.

In the wake of war, famine generally follows. The millions of refugees from Iraq and Syria, for example, are often found undernourished in refugee camps or on their treks to Europe and other nations. The United Nations World Food Program says “some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food. ... That's about one in nine people on earth.” A sudden disruption in food supplies could quickly turn that into a massive famine.

“Let me give you a stern warning. What we are seeing now looks more and more like a dramatic resurgence of the threat from emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. The world is not prepared to cope,” Dr. Margaret Chan, a physician who heads the World Health Organization, has declared.

Headlines in 2016 on the rapid spread of the Zika virus speak to this threat. This virus can cause debilitating birth defects and is believed to be carried by certain species of mosquitos; it caused widespread panic during the Summer Olympics.

For most of 2014, international headlines centered on an outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa. It quickly killed more than 11,000. People carrying the virus showed up in nations far from the outbreak zones, sending waves of panic throughout the world.

The influenza crisis of 1918 killed 25 million people in one year. Other fast-spreading diseases have brought tragic
consequences, as with the ongoing AIDS epidemic that began in the 1980s.

Michael Snyder, in his highly regarded “Economic Collapse” blog, noted in 2016 that the earth’s crust is becoming “increasingly unstable,” with forty active volcanoes erupting at the time and more than 3,000 earthquakes in one month’s time. He wrote, “The entire west coast of the United States lies along the [seismic zone known as the] Ring of Fire, and virtually every other section of the Ring of Fire is roaring to life.”

An earthquake or a massive volcanic eruption can wreak havoc in minutes. Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area were stunned in 1989 when an earthquake hit one October evening, killing 67, collapsing a major bridge, and causing billions of dollars in damage.

Six years later, the Osaka-Kobe area of Japan was rocked by a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that killed thousands. And in 2011, the Fukushima earthquake in northern Japan led to a nuclear accident that spread deadly radiation and resulted in 1,000 deaths.

These earthquakes are increasing in frequency and, some observers note, in intensity. And as was seen in Fukushima, the damage from an earthquake itself may be nothing compared with the collateral damage caused by a subsequent tsunami or other disaster unleashed by a tectonic shift.

When Jesus told His disciples that no one knew the day or hour of His return, He added, “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37).

What were the days of Noah like? In Genesis, chapter 6, the Bible reports, “The lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. … The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (verses 5, 11, 12).

You don’t have to look very far to see this happening today. In just a few years, the unthinkable in many societies has happened: Governments around the world have legalized marriages that fall outside of God’s original design. Sexual immorality is now paraded openly, demanding and receiving acceptance in society at large.

Divorce has skyrocketed, and in most nations, more couples live together without being married than those who tie the knot. More children are born without the traditional structure of a mother and father than ever before. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the signs of the end are being rapidly fulfilled. We can know that God is ready soon to act upon the world stage to save those whom He has created, loves, and sent His Son to redeem.

But it won’t be by a flood this time as in the days of Noah—it will be the return of Christ to establish something new for those who trust in Him. No longer will famine, disease, or disaster stalk societies. “Neither shall they learn war anymore” (Micah 4:3).

What a glorious day that will be!
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