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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

The Gathering Storm

Sabbath, December 3, 2022
The End Times
David Zic

In the midst of the agony of the cross, Christ cried out “it is finished” (John 19:30). All the prophecies given over the centuries pointing to this moment had now come to an end. All that the universe saw was that He who was without sin “was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him;” and still it was a glorious event for humanity because “with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). “It is finished” was for the wicked a dreadful declaration. They had lost in their attempt to vanquish the Saviour and they fled from the scene of the cross. “It is finished” was not for the people of God a dreadful declaration. This was a statement that made possible the access to grace to everyone who desired salvation.

Christ is once more about to declare an end. Once more, prophecies given over the centuries are about to reach their fulfillment. The final warnings given to a world drowning in sin will reach their conclusion. As it was when He said “it is finished” at the cross, there will be two groups at this closing proclamation of Christ. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Revelation 22:11–13).

Right now, as we approach this declaration of Christ, we are all making choices as to which group we will be in. The signs foretold in prophecy are fulfilling faster and faster. The sins of humanity are now boldly practiced in defiance of the Creator. Our greed, our indulgence, our desire for the supremacy are killing both our bodies and the world around us. As humanity pushes the Creator further away, His mercy is withdrawn from the world and what follows is devastation on an unprecedented scale. There have been natural disasters throughout the millennia, but the ones we are experiencing today go beyond anything of the past, and it will only get worse. “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37). Thinking we know better than God, mankind has released upon itself plagues, pandemics, and disasters of our own making.

The moment comes when the sins are too great for the Lord to bear, “for her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:5). When Christ makes that final declaration that His work of intercession for humanity is finished, on which side will you be found? As a child I remember hearing this message preached at my little church in Puslinch, Canada. The prophecies were presented clearly. The dates, the empires and nations, the charts visually depicting the prophecies, were all important because today as I see these prophecies being fulfilled before my eyes I can recognize them for what they truly are. I am so thankful to all those who shared the prophecies and messages of warning. Many of us have studied the prophecies, but now we are eyewitnesses to their fulfillment.

The end times and the righteous

For those who have accepted the transforming power of the gospel of Christ, the end times bring them incomprehensible joy. They have recognized that their own righteousness is nothing but “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) and they have accepted Christ and His righteousness as their very own. The power of Christ has transformed their lives and placed them in a condition of harmony with the Creator’s will. They delight to do the will of God, and His law is in their heart (Psalm 40:8).

The people of God have accepted salvation by His grace and transformation by His power. The same John who was given the revelation prophecies to share with us tells us that their power comes from their source, Jesus Christ. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Revelation is simply an extension of the good news of salvation. After all, the prophecies recorded in the last book of Scripture are declared to be “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:1). The prophecies of end times reveal the power of a mighty God to save His people. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3).

The end times do not scare the people of God. Our Saviour has told us that when we see the signs of the end fulfilled, we should “look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). We eagerly wait to see our Lord face to face. We desire to give praise and thanks to our Saviour who sacrificed all for us. Even though we are undeserving of it, He made a way of escape for us. The prophetic record says that on that great day the people of God will look up, while all the terrors of sin are consuming the world and its inhabitants, we will shout out “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).

The Adventist pursuit of understanding prophecy is not to find moments of fire and brimstone, but to gain a deeper relationship, a revelation, of Jesus Christ. Unworthy as we are, we know that we have not done anything to earn this salvation, “we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). We recognize that “there must be a power working from within, a new life from above, before men can be changed from sin to holiness. That power is Christ. His grace alone can quicken the lifeless faculties of the soul, and attract it to God, to holiness.”1

In prophetic vision, the servant of the Lord sees the people of God on our journey through the end times. As the terrors of the end take place around them, they have separated more and more from this world until they have become fully, totally, and utterly dependent on God. Cords from above are shown in the vision and God’s people hold on firmly to these cords.

“As we heard the sounds of mirth and revelry that seemed to come from the abyss below, we shuddered. We heard the profane oath, the vulgar jest, and low, vile songs. We heard the war song and the dance song. We heard instrumental music, and loud laughter, mingled with cursing and cries of anguish and bitter wailing, and were more anxious than ever to keep upon the narrow, difficult pathway. Much of the time we were compelled to suspend our whole weight upon the cords, which increased in size as we progressed. . . .

“For a moment we hesitated to venture. Then we exclaimed: ‘Our only hope is to trust wholly to the cord. It has been our dependence all the difficult way. It will not fail us now.’ Still we were hesitating and distressed. The words were then spoken: ‘God holds the cord. We need not fear.’ These words were then repeated by those behind us, accompanied with: ‘He will not fail us now. He has brought us thus far in safety. ’ ”2

Fully dependent on God, for the righteous the end times are the fulfillment of prophecy and a sure expectation of meeting our Saviour. The terrors taking place around us are the result of a removal of God’s protective grace. But we have relied on Him and He gives us the promise that our bread and water will be sure. (Isaiah 33:16.)

The end times and the wicked

Devoid of the saving grace of Christ, the wicked have a very different experience during the end times. They cannot understand why the people of God live the way we do. Salvation is a mystery to them. “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). They look with horror as the world around them unravels before their eyes.

The name for the last book of the Bible is different, depending on the language into which it was translated. In Germanic and Slavic languages, for example, it is a “Revelation,” but in many Latin languages it is referred to as an “Apocalypse.” It is the same book, but your personal experience with Christ determines if the prophecies contained in it, and their fulfillment, are a revelation of your Saviour or your horrifying apocalypse. As the final events unfold, the wicked remember a people who had shared the messages of warning from those prophecies. In the final moments just prior to the declaration that it is finished—as the last rays of mercy remain—some accept the gospel message and join with the righteous in thanks for their salvation in the revelation. Sadly, many refuse the final message of warning and the apocalypse is poured out upon them.

The prophetic scenes show the mercy of God withdrawn, but in reality it is not God that has withdrawn, but humanity that has pushed Him away. Human beings have turned upon creation by their own will. The created being now tells its Creator that He is no longer welcome among them. They don’t need God. They believe they know better than God.

The magnitude of sin has been growing exponentially. “This know also, that 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, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1–4).

In these verses, the apostle Paul describes a situation at the end times where society has so fully divorced itself from God that nature itself begins to break down under the weight of corruption. The human body becomes a perversion, in some instances from disease and some from intentional corruption of the body. The very nature of the world around us, burdened by human greed, begins to break down. And still, knowing and seeing the breakdown of society, they push on. The wicked declare that they have freed themselves from the restraints placed upon them by the Creator. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Peter 2:19).

But now Christ says, “it is finished.” In horror, the wicked realize there is nothing they can do. They have rejected salvation and they succumb fully to the control of evil. They will fight for the remnants of resources that remain. Society is crumbling around them, and they look for someone to blame, since they cannot admit that their own sins have overcome them.

The Word has already recorded for us what happens to society and nature itself when a people rejects their Creator’s will. “Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof. . . . The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left” (Isaiah 24:1, 3–6).

Whatever disasters and horrors have been recorded in history, they cannot begin to compare to what is about to break upon this world. Already we see the trouble arising. The spread of pandemic diseases, the distorted weather events, the increase in violent conflict, and the destruction of nature—these all are only beginnings of what is to come. For the wicked, the time of the end is truly an “apocalypse.”

A time of mercy

Now, while the final moments of God’s mercy remain, each of us is given a final appeal to take hold of grace. “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4). To come out of this world and be separate from it, is simply to take hold of grace. Our Creator earnestly desires to give us the best gifts and fill us with the righteousness of Christ. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18).

“We are making life’s journey amid the perils of the last days. We need to watch carefully every step, and to be sure that we are following our great Leader. Skepticism, infidelity, dissipation, and crime are on every hand. It would be an easy matter to let go the reins of self-control, and plunge over the precipice to sure destruction. How great the mercy that surrounds and preserves us every moment!”3

The people of God have accepted His gift of righteousness in Christ, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:1–3).

Now, having received the gift—and been transformed by it—will we not share this with others? Ours is not a message of terror. We do not preach fire and brimstone. The events are recorded prophetically so that you and I will know the time in which we live. Now as never before, we need to share the righteousness of Christ with a world desperately in need of transformation.

“We are living in an age when wickedness prevails. The perils of the last days thicken around us, and because iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold. This need not be if all would come to Jesus, and confidingly and in faith trust in Him. His meekness and His lowliness, cherished, will bring peace and rest and moral power to every soul.

“The shortness of time is urged as an incentive for us to seek righteousness and to make Christ our friend. This is not the great motive. It savors of selfishness. Is it necessary that the terrors of the day of God be held before us to compel us through fear to right action? This ought not to be. Jesus is attractive. He is full of love, mercy, and compassion. He proposes to be our friend, to walk with us through all the rough pathways of life. He says to you, I am the Lord thy God; walk with me, and I will fill thy path with light. Jesus, the Majesty of Heaven, proposes to elevate to companionship with Himself those who come to Him with their burdens, their weaknesses, and their cares. He will make them His dear children, and finally give them an inheritance of more value than the empires of kings, a crown of glory richer than has ever decked the brow of the most exalted earthly monarch.”4

1 Steps to Christ, p. 18.
2 Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen G. White, pp. 182, 184.
3 The Signs of the Times, January 26, 1882.
4 The Review and Herald, August 2, 1881.