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What we see then among the nations proclaims the approaching end.
2. Signs in the Social World A New Testament prophecy of the latter days says: "In the last days perilous times shall come.
For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” 2 Tim. 3:14.
The "perilous times" have come, when, as never before, the world is pleasure mad.
“Unrestrained passion for pleasure," said M. Comte, editor of the French Relèvement Social, writing just before the European war, is bringing a terrible train of evils into modern society. Along with it he put “the hunt for money without regard for means," adding:
“This is the theme which manufacturers, business men, men in the public administration, continually harp on with ever the same conviction and ever the same wealth of proof.
“The note is ever the same, and the conclusion identical: Nous sommes perdus! [We are lost!)”— Quoted in Record of Christian Work, July, 1914.
Many agencies for social and temperance reform are rendering the greatest human service; but for lost humanity the only hope is Christ, the divine Saviour. With an urgency born of the last call, His gospel is sounding to a world on the verge of eternity. Yet with divine love longing to save, the world sweeps on, less and less mindful of eternal interests. Christ's prophecy foretold it as it is:
“As the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matt. 24:37-39.
Who can look out upon mankind today without the conviction that this scripture is being fulfilled? The drift is strong toward the world and away from God; but we are bidden to watch and pray, lest the coming day find us unprepared.
3. Signs in the Industrial World Industrial conditions today add their contribution to the "distress of nations, with perplexity." Through the word of prophecy the Lord long ago foretold these conditions, with
"AM I MY BROTHER'S KEEPER?”
A night scene on the Thames
embankm.e..t, London. a warning to the careless rich, and a warning to the laborer and the poor, not to be drawn into contention over the things of this world, for the Judge is at the door. The prophecy, it will be seen, refers specifically to latter-day conditions.
“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
"Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth before the door." James 5:1-9.
There is no need to argue that the issues with which the prophecy deals are pressing upon the world with ever-increas
ing perplexity. We quote but two statements, by men not engaged in agitation, but calmly and thoughtfully setting down the signs of the times.
The late Lord Avebury (Sir John Lubbock) wrote a few years ago in the Review of Internationalism:
“The religion of Europe is not Christianity, but the worship of the god of war. . . . Unless something is done, the condition of the poor in Europe will grow worse and worse. It is no use shutting our eyes. Revolution may not come soon, not probably in our time, but come it will, and as sure as fate there will be an explosion such as the world has never seen.”
Of the rapid growth of discontent and its propaganda, Mr. Frederick Townsend Martin, of New York, wrote:
"Fifty years ago there was scarcely a voice of protest; indeed, there was hardly anything to protest against. Twenty-five years ago the protest was clear and distinct, and we understood it. Ten years ago the protest found expression in a dozen weekly publications, but today the protest is circulated not by hundreds or thousands of printed copies of books, pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers, but actually by the million.
“This propaganda of protest has its daily papers that are distinctive and published for that purpose, and that purpose only. It has its magazines and tens of thousands of weekly papers. Only a fool sneers at such a volume of publicity as that.
“The warnings that hundreds of us are uttering may be ignored. The squandering may go on, the vulgar bacchanalia may be prolonged, the poor may have to writhe under the iron heel of the iron lord — the dance of death may go on until society's E string snaps, and then the Vesuvius of the underworld will belch forth its lava of death and destruction.”—— Hearst's Magazine, September, 1913.
Thus hearts grow faint "for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” But while the increasing "distress of nations, with perplexity," abounds, the Lord sends the steadying, assuring message that soon Christ will come to end the reign of sin and strife. He would have His children keep the gospel light glowing, and wait patiently for Him.
4. The Great Missionary Movement The Saviour's prophecy of the signs of His second coming places the work of world evangelization as the culminating sign. This in itself is a joyful token of the approaching
end, a bright signal of hope in a suffering world. He said:
“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” Matt. 24: 14.
Before the end, the light of the gospel was to shine into every dark corner of the earth. True to the sure word of prophecy, when the latter days began,-"the time of the end,"
there sprang up the great movement of modern missions which has been one of the leading characteristics of the last century. Here are a few facts showing the missionary developments of a single century:
“In 1800 the foreign missionary societies numbered seven. In 1900 they numbered over 500.
“In 1800 the income of seven societies amounted to about $50,000. In 1900 the income was over $15,000,000.
“In 1800 the number of native communicants enrolled in Protestant mission churches was 7,000. In 1900 there were 1,500,000 native communicants.
“In 1800 the adherents of Protestant churches in heathen lands were estimated at 15,000. In 1900 they numbered 3,500,000.
“In 1800 only one fifth of the human family had the Bible in languages they could read. In 1900 nine tenths of the people of the world had the Word of God in languages and dialects known to them."
Since 1900 the missionary movement has remarkably increased in extent and activity. It is estimated that now there are about 22,000 foreign missionaries in the fields, with many thousands of trained native evangelists and helpers.
The prophecy is fulfilling before our eyes. It is not the conversion of the world that Christ's words foretold, but the evangelization of the world; and when all the world has heard the gospel of the kingdom, "then shall the end come.”
Another prophecy — that of Rev. 14: 6-14 - shows that the closing phase of this world-wide missionary movement is to be the proclamation of the special gospel message of preparation for the coming of the Lord, calling all men to worship God and keep His commandments, and warning them