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The Christadelphian | August 2011

In the magazine this month:

  • Editorial Christ crucified
  • Letters to the Editor
  • Sunday morning “Proved by hard questions” | Harry Tennant
  • Challenging thoughts from Amos | Trevor A. Pritchard
  • “So we do not lose heart” | D. C.
  • Our Lord and the womenfolk | Ken Clark
  • A son of old age 4 – Deceived! | Mark Sheppard
  • Moabite daughter of Abraham 4 – Crumbs from the masters’ table | Michael Ashton
  • The joy of salvation | Paul Cresswell
  • Signs of the times How close is the Master’s return? | Nigel Morgan
  • Israel and their land Conflict over gas
  • The brotherhood near and far

A sample article from this edition:

Signs of the Times

How close is the Master’s return?

THIS is a question, I suppose, that every brother and sister in Christ has asked themselves many times during their walk Zionwards. Acts 1:6 records that the apostles asked our Lord a similar question: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” And whilst Jesus replied with, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” and also said, “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man” (Mark 13:32), he did leave on record numerous pointers or milestones that any disciple can use when considering the epoch of our Lord’s return.

In Mark 13:8 Jesus says, “For nation shall rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be earthquakes in different places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these things are the beginnings of throes” (Darby Version). What stands out from this verse is just how accurately those four statements describe the newsworthy events that have occurred in the last few years. Mark 13 and Luke 21 clearly imply that there will be an increase in both the frequency and the severity of such events near the time of our Master’s return.

“Nation shall rise up against nation”

In the last two hundred years, there have been just four days without a war going on somewhere on this planet! In the last one hundred years the world has suffered two World Wars where millions were killed or disabled for life. More recently there has been a considerable upturn in political and social unrest in what has been termed the “Arab Spring” – in an area that supplies a large proportion of the world’s oil. The world’s total military expenditure has risen from just under $950 billion in 1999 to around $1.6 trillion [1] in 2010. At the time of writing, violence and civil disorder have flared up again in Northern Ireland.

“Earthquakes in different places”

At 2:45 pm local time on March 11 this year, the coastal area of Sendai in Japan experienced a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that lasted for around six minutes. It was the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan and the fourth most powerful earthquake [2] ever recorded worldwide since records were first kept over one hundred years ago. The quake was followed by a tsunami whose waves topped 120 feet (37 m) and which raced inland at over 60 mph (97 kph) for up to six miles (10 km) in places.

Earthquakes have featured prominently in news bulletins over the last few months, but are they increasing in frequency? It appears they are – well at least the more destructive ones. Taking the total number of earthquakes recorded per year from magnitude 1 to 9, there was an increase from fewer than 5,000 per year in 1973 to just under 30,000 in 2008 – more than a sixfold increase in thirty-six years! That figure had fallen back to around 21,500 [2] by 2010, but the occurrence of magnitude 7 or higher (i.e., the more destructive) earthquakes has continued to rise.

In the two-year period from January 2007 to December 2008, the number of magnitude 7 or higher earthquakes recorded was thirty. In the two-year period from January 2009 to December 2010, that figure had risen to thirty-nine. Taking 2010 alone, twenty-two [2] magnitude 7 or higher earthquakes were recorded against the historical average of 15.72 – somewhat but not greatly higher than the historical average. But before March 2011 had ended, no fewer than nine magnitude 7 or higher earthquakes [3] were recorded. If that trend were to continue for the rest of this year, a total of thirty-six magnitude 7 earthquakes will have occurred – over double the historical average.

“There shall be famines …”

Until the reports of the drought and resulting famine in the Horn of Africa appeared in the media recently, we hadn’t heard much in the news during the last few years about famine. These recent reports prove that the problem has far from disappeared. The UN Food & Agricultural Organisation stated that in 2009 around 1.02 billion people (approximately one-seventh of the world’s population) did not have enough food to eat. And in the fifteen years from 1992 to 2007, the number of people worldwide suffering from malnutrition increased by around 100 million – in the same period that saw the average standard of living rise considerably in both the developed and the developing world.

“… and troubles”

Here are just a few of the “troubles” that have made headline news in 2010 and 2011:

  • (2010) An Icelandic volcano caused weeks of air travel misery for millions in Western Europe.
  • (2010) Massive floods hit Eastern Australia and Pakistan.
  • (2010/11) Four powerful earthquakes hit New Zealand in just nine months (Darfield, White Island and two in Christchurch), ranging from magnitude 6.0 to 7.1.
  • (2011) The Fukushima nuclear power plant was destroyed in Japan’s magnitude 9.0 earthquake. All four reactors were severely damaged with violent explosions occurring in three out of the four. Large amounts of highly radioactive material were released into the environment. This was rated as a category 7 nuclear disaster – as high as Chernobyl in 1986.
  • (2011) Economies of the Eurozone are in turmoil with Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain experiencing serious financial difficulties.

“Stormy wind fulfilling his word”

Have you noticed how the weather seems to have gone mad recently? Some years ago, Brother Tony Benson wrote a book entitled Stormy Wind Fulfilling His Word, in which he demonstrated that around the time of the fulfilment of significant Bible prophecies (e.g., the French Revolution) the weather appeared to go haywire – and in doing so played its part in bringing about their fulfilment.

Listed below are a few of the weather records broken in just the UK and the USA in the last eighteen months or so. And it’s not just Britain and America that are experiencing freak weather – it is happening all over the world!

  • Highest ever recorded two-, three- and four-day rainfall totals in England were all broken in the autumn of 2009 (Seathwaite, Cumbria: 395, 456 & 495 mm).
  • Britain experienced its coldest December on record in 2010.
  • Northern Ireland experienced its sunniest December on record in 2010.
  • Spring 2011 was the driest in South-East England and East Anglia for one hundred years.
  • Spring 2011 (March, April and May) was the warmest in the UK since records began in 1659.
  • April 25-28, 2011: the worst outbreak of storms and tornadoes ever recorded in southern USA, during which the highest ever one-day tornado total (201) was recorded between April 27-28, beating by fifty-three the previous record (148) set on April 3-4, 1974.
  • May 22, 2011: Joplin, Missouri, was devastated by “the single deadliest tornado recorded in the US since the National Weather Service started keeping records sixty-one years ago” (See | The Christadelphian, page 230, June 2011).
  • 2011 is already “the deadliest year for tornadoes since 1950” (US N.W.S.) with 520 already killed (previous highest 519 in 1953).

All these “troubles” have repercussions. Bad weather reduces or even wipes out entire crop harvests. Crop shortages combined with the recent ‘roller coaster’ oil prices have led to much higher commodity and food prices. The “threefold cord” of high food prices, unstable demographics and repressive governments has resulted in social and political unrest such as we have seen taking place in the “Arab Spring”. This unrest led to further stockpiling, which has pushed up oil and commodity prices even higher – and higher oil and commodity prices lead to increased food prices. This scenario is a classic inflationary and destabilising vicious circle.

Commodity prices have been rising worldwide at an alarming rate in recent months, with fuel and energy prices being particularly hard hit. The “at the pump” price of oil-based fuel has risen by around forty per cent over the last two years in the UK, and in June this year several energy companies raised their prices by ten to twenty per cent for gas and electricity – with the ‘promise’ of more increases to come as wholesale gas prices head inexorably upward. These spiralling commodity and energy prices will inevitably lead to steep rises in both the cost of living and in unemployment, which will bring financial hardship and misery to many people over the coming months.

“Hast thou come to take a spoil?”

The following is a series of quotations from an article entitled, “Can the world survive the impending oil crisis?” which is available for download from a website that describes itself as the “Number One Oil Price Source”:

“The alarm bells have started ringing as surveys indicate that oil will become increasingly scarce beyond 2030 at the present rate of consumption … If appropriate remedial measures are not immediately put in place, it is almost a certainty that by the end of 2020 most nations around the world will have to make do with less and less oil. In such a predicament, all nations will have to toe the political ideology of the Arab nations or else face oil starvation. The United States and the other developed nations that form the G8 group will cease to wield the power it now enjoys … it is only the oil-rich nations that will exercise hegemony [4].”

Bible prophecy predicts that near the time of our Master’s return, Israel’s Arab neighbours and many other (mainly European) nations will turn against Israel. Could it be that oil will be used as a weapon by these Arab nations to coerce other nations that are currently neutral or pro-Israeli into attacking her – just as Russia used the withholding of its gas supplies to force Georgia to toe her line over South Ossetia in 2004? Will the recent discovery of oil and gas deposits in Israel (Deuteronomy 32:13; 33:24?) form part of the lure to bring Gog down into the Holy Land?

Since the financial crisis of autumn 2008, various economies of the Eurozone have become increasingly unstable and fragile. At the time of writing, the Greek economy is balanced on a knife-edge, having already been bailed out (as have Ireland and Portugal) with loans of around 110 billion euros. It has become clear in recent weeks that Greece will need more financial bailouts in order to stave off national bankruptcy. But how long can the bailouts forestall what many economists regard as the inevitable? And what will be the economic fallout from allowing Greece to default on her debts? The consensus of opinion is another banking crisis akin to, or possibly worse than, the crisis of autumn 2008.

If we combine the prophetic words of our Lord in Mark 13:7,8 with those from Luke 21:25-31, the conditions prophesied to be prevalent in the world at the time of our Master’s return bear a striking resemblance to current events:

  • Increasing occurrence of earthquakes in many places.
  • Increasing occurrence of extreme weather events.
  • Increase in other “natural disasters”.
  • Increase in famines and pestilences (plagues and diseases).
  • Shortages and high prices of food and commodities.
  • Increase in political and social unrest.
  • Serious worldwide economic problems.
  • (leading to) People being fearful of the future.

Mark 13:8 ends with the word “throes” (as quoted above in the Darby Version), or “sorrows” in the AV. Strong’s Concordance tells us that the literal meaning of the Greek word used for “throes” or “sorrows” is birth pangs. A woman who has given birth to a child will have experienced two things during the period of being in labour, or “travail” as the AV sometimes expresses it. First, as the time of birth draws near, the birth pangs or contractions become stronger and more frequent. Secondly, once the birth pangs have begun, the birth of the child cannot be stopped. It appears to me that the ‘birth pangs’ heralding the nearness of our Lord’s return have already started – and are increasing both in severity and frequency!

Luke 21:28 tells us: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” So when the events described in the preceding verses of Luke 21 begin to happen, Jesus instructs us to “lift up our heads” or encourage ourselves with the knowledge that his return to this earth is near. And when he returns, his main task will be to set up that wonderful kingdom age where our faith will be turned into joy at the wonders we shall behold – joy that will be beyond imagination as we experience a perfect and immortal nature and we begin that great work of preparing this world for our Heavenly Father to dwell in. So far from being fearful of the future, as so many around us are, we should lift up our heads and rejoice – for “our redemption draws (very?) near”!

Nigel Morgan

[1] SIPRI Military Expenditure Database 2011.

[2] U.S. Geological Survey earthquake database.

[3] Prophecy Proof Insights Blog.

[4] One group or nation exerting political, economic, ideological or cultural power over one or more other groups or nations.

 

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