Chapter 8

Has The Sign Of The End Come?

The apostles asked our Lord for THE SIGN of His coming and the consummation of the age. This information Christ gave to the disciples in Matt. 24:6-8 where he predicted a world war attended by famines, pestilences, and great earthquakes in diverse places, calling it the "beginning of travail"--the first birth-pain.

As we have seen, the apostles were thinking in terms of Zech. 14 and parallel passages. Knowing this, our Lord, in substance, assured them that when a local war would break out they should not attach any prophetic significance to it as foreboding the destruction of Jerusalem, His coming and the consummation of the age. Local wars have no prophetic significance because they characterize the entire age. Therefore He said that in the event of a war the end was not yet. But when "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom"--a general dogfight of nations which develops into a world war attended by famines, pestilences and great earthquakes in diverse places--they could know that all of these things constitute the first birth-pain which warns the world that the time has arrived for it to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. The sign of the end of the age is a world war attended by earthquakes, pestilences and famines in proportions never known by the world.

That War Has Occurred

Has there ever been a war of the magnitude contemplated by this passage? In answering this question some have called attention to the Napoleonic wars. Could those conflicts be said to fill out the picture of this passage? In my judgment, no. Those conflicts engulfed western and central Europe in a mighty cataclysm of political upthrusts which were, for a brief time, carried into eastern Europe and even into Egypt, but in no way could any of those struggles be considered a world war, or one in the proportions set forth in the prediction.

Could the great war of 1914-18 be considered the fulfillment of this passage? There is a difference of opinion among scholars and, in view of these divergent views, it behooves us to hold ourselves in reserve. At the same time it becomes necessary to study the situation honestly and accurately. How much of the earth's surface and population were drawn into that titanic struggle? All Europe was engulfed with the exception of the three small Scandinavian countries, Holland, Switzerland and Spain. All Asia was also involved. Since Africa constituted dependencies of the European powers, all of it was dragged in, too. In the Western Hemisphere both Canada and the United States were in the midst of the conflict. Brazil, which constitutes practically half of South America, also was brought in. Argentina was on the verge of entering when the armistice was signed. Four Central American countries were pulled into the conflict by the mighty undertow of strained relations. Four South American countries broke diplomatic relations with Germany near the close of the struggle. Of course New Zealand and Australia came in, being British possessions. For all practical purposes, therefore, we are bound to admit that the conflict of 1914-1918 did fill out the picture set forth in the prediction.

As has already been seen in our investigation of the idiom, "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom," the prophecy does not require the entrance of every nation into the conflict, but it does indicate that the majority of the world would be engulfed in the cataclysm. So far as the picture is concerned, the world conflict with its earthquakes, pestilences and famines did fill out the prediction to the full proportion as contemplated.

How Many World Wars?

Accepting the above position as true, one may ask if the Scriptures do not foretell several world wars. In reply, I wish to say that this prediction foretells one, while two other major conflicts are prophesied in Rev. 6 and 16. According to this data then, at least three world wars have been foretold.

Someone may ask, Since it is admitted that at least three such wars were made known in the Scriptures, how can we tell which is the one here foretold as THE SIGN of the end of the age?

This is a most important question. To answer it, I wish to use the following simple illustration: suppose my home were located on a highway and you were coming to visit me. Not knowing exactly where I live, you accost a stranger who calls your attention to the line of telephone posts on the left-hand side of the road with wires connected to each post. He tells you to pay no attention to these but when you see a post with a cross-arm you should look on the opposite side of the highway and see a gate, which will be mine. With such specific instructions you thank your friend and proceed. Finally, after traveling several miles and turning a curve in the road, you see a post with a cross-arm. Then you look ahead and discover that the next one also has a cross-arm, and the third, and all the rest. I ask you, dear friend, opposite to which one of these posts would you expect to see my gate?

With reference to practical things we use good judgment, but when it comes to spiritual and eternal verities, we try to enshroud them in mystery and to force upon them an unnatural and strained meaning. Wisdom, however, would dictate to us that our Lord meant by His instructions to point our attention to the first world war and intended for us to recognize in it the sign of the end of the age.

Someone may ask if I am certain that the conflict of 1914-1918 was the world war foretold by our Lord as signifying the end of the age. In reply let me say that I feel absolutely certain I have analyzed our Lord's language correctly, having followed the principles of interpretation and taken every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning when possible.

In view of the fact that we are fallible creatures who constantly make mistakes, I wish to avoid dogmatism. Even though in my own judgment the first World War was
the sign of the end of the age, I wish the reader to understand distinctly that I am giving this as personal opinion and judgment. I do not wish that anyone merely accept the view I set forth, but desire that he should study the question thoroughly and honestly for himself, asking God to show him the light so as to arrive at his own conclusion.


Footnotes:

 THE GREAT WAR-1914-1918: "Nation rising against nation" until virtually all the world was involved. The war began in Europe when Austria-Hungary attacked Serbia in 1914. Russia came to the aid of Serbia while Germany supported Austria-Hungary. France then joined the Allied Powers. Germany invaded Belgium in an effort to cross over and reach France before Russia could aid her. England promptly denounced the action and joined the conflict, bringing all her Commonwealth with her. Japan, England's friend, declared war on Germany; Montenegro entered on behalf of Serbia; the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) joined with Germany and Austria-Hungary. In 1915 Bulgaria sided with the German powers and Italy joined England et al. In 1916 Roumania and Portugal entered with the Allies against Germany. In 1917 the German submarine policy brought the United States into the war. Cuba and Panama quickly followed, then Greece, Siam, Liberia, China and Brazil joined that summer and fall. In 1918 all the rest of the Central American countries except El Salvador joined the Allies, along with Haiti. That summer, approximately one-half of the sovereign states in the world were arrayed against Austria-Hungary, Germany, Turkey and Bulgaria. While the war started in Europe, the land battle spread to Egypt and the Near East. The seapower of Britain and the submarine warfare of Germany involved the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and South America. In the end, Turkey was stripped of Palestine, Arabia and Mesopotamia; Germany lost her African and Pacific Ocean colonies and her holdings in China. Austria-Hungary ceased to exist as such, becoming small separate states on the Danube River.