What does it mean to discern the signs of the times?
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My wife tells me that I like to stay informed of weather reports for our area. What's wrong with being informed? It's good to know if rain's in the forecast. In fact, we can see when a thunderstorm is looming. We see black clouds rolling across the horizon. We see the wind pick up. We hear the thunder in the distance. Besides, we have the weather channel on TV; and, you know, I like to stay informed. She says, "Well, just look out the window and you'll see what the weather is."
But our first thought may be, "I hope we don't lose five trees in our back yard like we did last time. I hope the power stays on," as we see the storm coming. The truth is, we're quite good at predicting the weather and knowing when a storm looms. Professional weather forecasters can even tell us if we can expect rain a week from now.
Jesus commented about this in Matthew 16 . Just open your Bibles for a moment and look at Matthew:16:1-3 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.  He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? .
Matthew:16:1-3 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.  He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? – Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, "Well, don't you have the weather channel?" He said, "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; and in the morning, 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times."
What does it mean to discern the signs of the times? As you know, we've had another flare-up in the Middle East; and as we look at the current news and look at news from the Middle East, we see once again signs of our times. I saw a Google map on the news that put a pin on every spot where there is a current demonstration going on against the West; and the Middle East was just dotted with thirty or forty demonstrations going on right now. That's not just against U.S. embassies, either. Germany had their embassy pushed up against as well.
In Luke 21 , Jesus gave a detailed prophecy of what things would look like when the end of this age is very near and when the Kingdom of God is about to take over mankind and [ take over ] Satan's rule of this planet. He gave a list of what it would be like, and it's a very interesting read up through v. 28 , with a few scary verses in there, too, as you go through those first 28 verses. But then notice what He says in v. 29 . He spoke to them a parable. He said:
Luke:21:29-31 And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;  When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.  So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. – ..."Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening..." He says, "When you see these things I just mentioned in the first 28 verses, know that the kingdom of God is near."
Then notice v. 36 – "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
Now, watching doesn't make us worthy. But being counted worthy depends on our relationship with God and our obedience to Him. Forgiveness offered by our Savior Jesus Christ makes us counted worthy to stand before Him without guilt, when we repent and follow Him. This is why we pray always.
Jesus told us to discern the signs of the times, and He taught us to "watch therefore." What does it mean to watch? How do we discern the signs of the times? The Feast of Trumpets is just two days away; and, as we know, this particular holy day pictures the return of Jesus Christ and the end of mankind's rule and Satan's influence on this planet. And so, I think this is a timely message that we have here today. We're going to see seven end-time events to watch for. These are signs that will show us the spiritual weather forecast for our day. If we're watching carefully, we'll see when the spiritual fig tree is blooming and we can expect the Kingdom of God to be very near. So the sermon is titled, "Seven End-time Events to Watch For."
Our first sign to watch for is this:
1. The continual decline of modern-day Jacob.
Of course, Jacob's name was changed to Israel. We know from an in-depth study of history and archeology and the words from the Bible who the modern descendants of ancient Israel are today. Biblical prophecy portrays the decline of Jacob, represented today by the United States, Great Britain, and the English-speaking nations. If you would like to look into it in more depth, of course, you can read our booklet, United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy. If you haven't read it in a while, I suggest that you do.
This decline of Jacob could be caused by a combination of war, financial collapse, a social breakdown, and as a result of individual and national sin. Punishment will come. In addition, the modern state of Israel, which, of course, is just one of the twelve tribes—the tribe of Judah—the modern state of Israel is in an especially perilous plight. Right now it is surrounded by soon-to-be nuclear-armed Iran to the east. It is threatened by Syrian chemical warfare to the north and the Muslim Brotherhood takeover of Egypt to the south. The state of Israel is surrounded.
The prophet Hosea writes in his book about ancient Israel, but his message also has an end-time context. I want to take a look at Hosea:4:1-3 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.  Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away. , because here Hosea lists many of the sins of Israel. He's not just talking about the tribe of Judah. He lists sins evident in his own day as well as what we would find in the end time and then delivers God's warning of judgment if things don't change.
Hosea:4:1-3 Hear the word of the LORD, ye children of Israel: for the LORD hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.  By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.  Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away. – Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land, and here's why : "There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed. Therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away."
Much of this sounds like our society today. Swearing, lying, killing, stealing, adultery, bloodshed, a disregard for God. If you see v. 17 , you'll note that Ephraim is mentioned, and Israel is listed in v. 1 . Ephraim represented the northern kingdom of Israel, the northern ten tribes. This prophecy is for our people, the descendants of Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel. But Hosea's message was primarily to Israel of the end time. And, interestingly, the nations of modern Israel—the English-speaking people today—supposedly worship the Lord; but this lord is not really the true Lord of the Bible because he's usually worshiped today with many of the trappings of Baalism and syncretism. The situation Hosea writes about parallels that of religion today, with all manner of people serving as supposed ministers of God throughout the world, yet who really don't serve Him. Indeed, they don't even truly know Him and reject His holy laws. To put it more directly, what the world at large understands to be Christianity is actually a blended religion—a mix of some of the same customs of the ancient pagans with concepts and language of the New Testament. Millions of people think that they accept Christ as their Savior when they, in fact, embrace a religion that Christ will reject.
This is going to bring a charge, or a judgment, as Hosea says, against our land and against our people. So watch for the continual decline of these nations. Watch for the continual moral and cultural decline of the United States and Great Britain. Watch for the United States to become a secular, post-Christian nation in values and beliefs. Watch for the break-up of the United Kingdom, as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland become semi-independent nations, with different agendas from England. If you're looking closely, you'll see that happening now. Watch for increased cultural tensions in the United States as we become so divided and hardened in opposite views that virtually nothing can receive broad support. Government is unable to get things passed. Our politics are no longer founded on compromise but on partisan narrow positions. Watch for the United States to lose influence in the world as power becomes more based on economy and currency rather than simply on military strength.
Even in my own country, watch for Australia to lose its stability and fall into deeper problems. BBC Focus magazine recently analyzed the world's nations according to the classic "seven deadly sins"—lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. What nation was measured, out of all in the world, as the most sinful? Australia! The United States and Canada followed as numbers 2 and 3. Do a simple search online for "Australia most sinful nation" and you'll see dozens of reports and analyses from that Focus magazine from the BBC. It's not good! The top three!
And so, our first point is the continual decline of modern-day Jacob. Watch for it. Secondly:
2. The rise of new world powers.
The new world order of globalization has resulted in the creation of new powers in the place of domineering superpowers. Even smaller nations hold hostage the greater powers of our day. Much smaller terrorist organizations wreak havoc and fear upon their giant enemies, and we see that fear even today in this week's news. All this is leading toward new alliances forming between nations. These relationships are based on regional trade and are formed for financial benefit and mutual protection, but they're also based on consolidating military strength and military might.
So with the decline of the United States, Great Britain, and the modern-day descendants of Jacob that we talked about in our first point, who will fill the power vacuum? Take a look at Daniel:11:40-42 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.  He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.  He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. . As you may recall, Daniel 11 is the longest continuous prophecy in the Bible; and historians can go through those verses, one by one, and pinpoint exactly what Daniel prophesied—Alexander the Great, the great empires of the world, various wars and conflicts throughout the ages; and then we come to v. 40 , which has not yet happened. You can go back through that chapter and see what has happened up to that point, but v. 40 has not yet happened in this prophecy. Of course, there are times when this was written where nothing else had happened yet either. And now we're up to v. 40 .
Daniel:11:40-42 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.  He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.  He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. – At the time of the end... so here the Bible spoke of an end-time new world order... At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him, talking of the king of the North ; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
Now, a united European power is the king of the North. The king of the South is most likely a group of Islamic Arab and Persian nations that we predict will band together to protect their oil interests and Islamic culture, plus enlarge their goals to bring Islam to all the world. You can read the detailed analysis of this in our free booklet, of course, The Middle East in Bible Prophecy. If you haven't read that one lately, now is a good time to do so. It covers a lot of ground, and we're actually in the middle of updating it to reflect more current events that have happened in the last 8-10 years since we wrote it.
The question is, what may cause this war between these two regional powers? Between the king that is to the north and west of Jerusalem and the king that is to the south? The king of the North and the king of the South, Europe and then the Arab world? What may cause this tension? Let me read a report to you from euractive.com . The article is titled, Geopolitics of EU Energy Supply. It was updated in May of this year.
The Commission Green Paper on security of energy supply (November 2000) drew a sobering picture of the EU's energy situation. If no action is taken, it predicted, the EU's energy dependency will climb from 50% in 2000 to 70% in 2030...45% of EU oil imports originate from the Middle East; by 2030, 90% of EU oil consumption will have to be covered by imports.
So watch for increased tension between the Muslim world and Christianity, and this increased tension will eventually result in a war, as predicted in Daniel 11 .
Watch for regional trading blocks in North America, Europe, and Asia to become powerful political partners leading to trade wars between the different regions of the world.
I have a question for you. Do you think the Roman Catholic Church will simply sit by and allow Islam to dominate traditionally Catholic Europe? Nineteen percent of the French population is now foreign-born, and that's rising every year. Another question: Will the concept of democracy survive in the nations that become controlled by Muslim citizens? The Council on Foreign Relations released a study last October asking if democracy can survive in areas of Europe where sharia law is being pushed, lest something is done about it. The study was titled Islam: Governing Under Sharia. Here's a quote from the introduction at cfr.org , that's "Council for Foreign Relations."
Sharia, or Islamic law, influences the legal code in most Muslim countries. A movement to allow sharia to govern personal status law, a set of regulations that pertain to marriage, divorce, inheritance, and custody, is even expanding into the West... Sharia's influence on both personal status law and criminal law is highly controversial, though. Some interpretations are used to justify cruel punishments such as amputation and stoning as well as unequal treatment of women in inheritance, dress, and independence. The debate is growing as to whether sharia can coexist with secularism, democracy...
Let me quote from a very recent article from LaTribune , a French newspaper of August 9, just a month ago. It shows just how unstable the Middle East has become and how eventually a clash between North and South, between Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, is inevitable. It's very reminiscent of Daniel 11 . This is my Google translation from French into English. It was a French newspaper, so I used Google Translate , and here's what it came up with for me on this story. The title is France Is Preparing for an Evacuation of Its Nationals in Israel , by Pascal Lacorie, writing from Jerusalem.
According to diplomatic sources, a plan of evacuation of 200,000 French citizens living in Israel has been developed in the context of growing threats of conflict with Iran. An evacuation plan of 200,000 French citizens living in Israel has been developed to cope with the rising dangers. The objective: to not be caught off guard should a barrage of missiles equipped with conventional weapons or unconventional weapons be fired by Iran or Hezbollah on Israeli territory.
That's from LaTribune.fr , entitled France Is Preparing for an Evacuation of Its Nationals...
So watch for war to break out in the Middle East. Not just small clashes in front of embassies, but full-scale war. Watch for Israel and Jerusalem to be at its center. Watch for the United States to lose even more influence as a world power as power becomes more based in Europe. Watch for the formation of the king of the North in Europe and the king of the South in the Islamic and Arab world, leading to a conflict of ideology between the West and Islam, between North and South, as prophesied in the book of Daniel.
So our second point is the rise of new world powers. Number three to watch for:
3. The rise of ten European nations into an international superpower.
An analysis of history, along with specific prophecies of the Bible, shows that just prior to the return of Jesus Christ there will be another end-time event to watch for. It is the formation of a ten-nation superpower north of Jerusalem.
We find that these nations are the last resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire. Collectively, these nations are called the "beast" in the book of Revelation. After the decline of democracy in Europe, a strong Germanic influence, we predict, will control this regional power. The rise of the beast power in Europe is the first woe or the fifth trumpet in Revelation. As you know, we're going through the book of Revelation now in our biweekly Bible study.
Notice Revelation 17. Let's turn over to Revelation:17:12-13 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.  These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. for a moment.
Revelation:17:12And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. – The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.
For one hour means for a short period of time, so these ten kings, these ten leaders that band together as the beast will have a reasonably short rule, at least as far as their destructive powers go.
V. 13 – These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.
So here are ten nations that work together. These ten nations give their sovereignty over to a charismatic autocratic dictator. We can predict that it will be the fall of true democracy in Europe when this leader takes over. What is this beast? It's a short-lived end-time empire basically ruled by Satan. It is represented by the ten horns in Revelation 17 that we just read and also by the ten toes in Daniel 2. You can go back there and read it if you want. In Daniel 2 , the ten toes are a corollary; and our booklet, The Book of Revelation Unveiled , once again, goes through this in detail for you if you want to pick that off the shelf again or go online and read it.
The beast will cause the human dictator of this empire to be worshiped worldwide. Notice Revelation 13 that talks about this, because Satan will transform his political and military might into a great religious crusade. This is the same beast mentioned in Revelation 13 .
Revelation:13:3And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. – And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed... So this is talking about a revival or a resurrection or a healing of the earlier beast of the same Roman Empire. You see, there were several successive times that the Roman Empire took power. And all the world marveled and followed the beast that had been now healed and was now back on the world scene.
V. 4 – So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"
So it's a military power as well as a religious power.
V. 5 – And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.
So now we see how long that short period of time is, that "one hour." It's three and a half years, forty-two months.
V. 6-7 – Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
So this is a worldwide dictatorship, the likes of which we have never seen.
V. 8 – All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life, that is, the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
So it's only those who are truly called and converted and are following God who will not be worshiping the beast, those who are written in the Book of Life.
V. 9 – If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
What we read here is that we'd better be listening to this warning. We'd better be watching and be on God's side, not the devil's.
So watch for the continued unification of the European Union in western Europe into a merging of ten powerful nations with the world's largest economy that eventually dominates the USA and the rest of the world. Watch for the decline of the democratic influence in the European Union and a drift into autocratic leadership, most likely dominated by Germany. This may be a reaction to Islamic immigration or a financial or social collapse or a combination of both, perhaps. Watch for the people of the world to look for a man to save them. The world may be in such disarray that people are just happy to have someone lead the way and turn things over to him. Watch for people to give up their freedom to this leader, which Revelation calls the beast, in order to be saved from total societal collapse. And maybe they'll think it's a good thing at first.
What's the current economic situation in Europe? The EU has established a single market across the territory of all of its members. A monetary union, which they call the Eurozone, that uses a single currency, the euro, and currently comprises seventeen member states. In 2010 the EU generated an estimated 26 percent of the global gross domestic product, making it the largest economy in the world. It's the largest exporter, the largest importer of goods and services, and the biggest trading partner to several large countries, such as China, United States, and India.
For several decades following World War II, Germany appeared content to just let France lead the way and to let France assume the reigns of leadership, particularly in regard to European Union affairs. But in recent years, their partnership has been a lot more equal; and the pendulum now even swings more toward Germany. Philip Stevens, a leading columnist for the Financial Times, wrote this on December 9 last year. The article is titled Now the Franco-German Question . Philip Stevens wrote:
Germany will have to learn leadership and France follow-ship...The rules of the European game changed forever with the reunification of Germany. It has taken the euro crisis to spell out the brutal implications.
So even journalists of our day recognize that Germany is now taking center stage in Europe. As was stated in the New York Times on December 11, 2011...this is from an article titled Euro Crisis Pits Germany and U.S. in Tactical Fight :
The Germans had a strategic insight or advantage to let the crisis, that was the economic crisis they currently have , get to the threshold within the European Union necessary for France to be willing to hand over the kind of sovereignty the country had always resisted.
So the economic crisis in Europe has now made it necessary for France to give up its sovereignty more to the whims of Germany. And it could even be said that Germany decided to, in the words of other political leaders, not let a serious crisis go to waste. A number of journalists have said that about the European crisis. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, as quoted in the Associated Press from December 9:
This is the breakthrough to the stability union. We are using the crisis as an opportunity for a renewal.
And that's in the Associated Press from December 9, Europe Forges Fiscal Union .
One more quote for you from August 11 of this year, just a few weeks ago, by F. Michael Maloof. His article from Worldnet Daily is titled EU Nations Looking at NATO Substitute .
France once again is pushing the notion of a common European defense force...French Defense Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said that a coordinated effort...for a common European defense also would assist in defense spending cuts and pooling military capacities of the European countries.
He continues, The call for a common European defense comes as Europeans see the United States shifting its emphasis more toward the Asia-Pacific region. Until now, the U. S. has been the lead country in maintaining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but now many are questioning whether it needs to exist.
So NATO might be going by the wayside before too much longer.
So watch for the abdication of Britain and other nations from the European Union as it moves away from democratic principles. This will eventually only leave ten nations in the final union as we read about in Daniel and Revelation. Watch for the continued decline of Russia as it finds itself outside of both Western Europe and Asia. The culture of the czars and the Soviet premiers and presidents is depleting its greatness, that culture that they have. It's not working in modern times. And watch for the buildup of European military might, like many journalists are predicting, centered once again, though, in Germany. Watch for it to pave the way for the beast to insist on his policies and his dictates, because of his economic strength and military strength.
And so, our third point is, the rise of ten European nations into an international superpower.
So what else is on the horizon?
4. The prominence of a powerful church over the European superpower.
As the new European political power develops, an influential religious leader will arise to provide leadership and unity to this regional power. The book of Revelation refers to this church as "the great whore," "the mother of all harlots," and the leader as "the false prophet."
Revelation:17:4And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: is where we will turn to for this one. It begins in v. 4 :
Revelation:17:4-5 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:  And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. – The woman, and, of course, a woman represents a church in the Bible, in prophecy; and in this case, it's representing a false church. The woman, or the false church, was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
V. 6-7 – I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns..."
So the ten horns, the ten toes, the revival of the Roman Empire in the end time, will have a church riding it, led by a false prophet.
The National Catholic Weekly, their own newspaper, reported last November that the Vatican recently renewed its call for the creation of a "world political authority with broad powers to regulate financial markets and reign in the 'inequities and distortions of capitalist development .'"
The article was called Vatican Document Calls for "Supranational" Reform, from November 7, 2011. The forty-one page document, titled Toward Reforming the International Financial and Monetary Systems in the Context of Global Public Authority, was prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and it says: A supranational authority is needed to place the common good at the center of international economic activity.
They want one-world government, and obviously the National Catholic Weekly would presume that it would have a common religious element as well. The Vatican's call to establish a global public authority and central world bank with supranational authority really is reminiscent of the Bible's prophecies of just such a system being established. Revelation 17 that we just read talks about a woman, a church, riding the beast. They work together. So watch for even the current pope to die within the next few years and be replaced perhaps by another non-Italian pope who is even more autocratic and exclusive in his theology. Watch for a resurgence of Catholic dogma, an increased number of visions and miracles intended to strengthen Catholicism around the world; and look for increased "Mary-ism," the false worship of Mary, with these supposed miracles. Watch for the political leaders of the European Union to look to Catholicism as a cultural bond in the new union. The Church of Rome has a unique way of capitalizing and bending to political opportunities. It happened in World War II with Hitler.
Watch for increased tension between Catholicism and Islam as the Catholic Church aggressively responds to Islamic influence in Western Europe. Watch for that.
So, our fourth point is the prominence of a powerful church over the European superpower.
5. The creation of a powerful Asian superpower.
We're going to turn to Revelation 9 for this point. The Bible reveals the creation of a great Asian regional power whose massive armies will attack Europe in the last days. An attack on the European armies by an Asian colossus is also what we would see as the sixth trumpet plague in Revelation.
The Euphrates River was the eastern-most boundary of the Roman Empire at the time of the writing of the book of Revelation. Except for a brief period later during the reign of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian when Mesopotamia and Assyria became provinces of Rome, the Euphrates was generally considered the dividing line between the Roman provinces and territories controlled by other kings to the east. And we know where the river Euphrates is right now, in Iraq.
Revelation:9:13-15 And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God,  Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates.  And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. – Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates," at the eastern edge of the Roman Empire. So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
This is a huge war.
V. 16 – Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.
So this event, the second woe or the sixth trumpet plague, seems to be a massive counter attack across the Euphrates River against the European-led forces of what was the first woe or the fifth trumpet plague, the one before. It's not clear whether this river, the Euphrates, will play a similar role at the time of the end, but this could be implied in the wording of Revelation:16:12And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. , where kings from the east are again specifically associated with the Euphrates River. So we're jumping from Revelation 9 to Revelation 16 . Revelation 12-14 provide a digression, or an inset, to the story flow. Then the story continues in chapter 16. Once again, our Book of Revelation Unveiled booklet really helps you see the whole picture here.
Revelation:16:12And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. – Then the sixth angel— it's the same one— the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.
So watch for China to become a dominant financial and military power in Asia as it's 1.3 billion people and growing economy modernize. Watch for Japan, probably, to have a declining influence or a secondary influence in Asia and the rest of the world. Its debt percentage to gross domestic product right now is a major hurdle and something they may not be able to overcome in the future. Japan is in rather dire economic circumstances right now.
Here is just a taste of what China has been up to militarily in the past couple of decades. I got this from dailymail.co.uk.
China has up to 3,000 nuclear weapons hidden in its tunnels. Georgetown University students spent three years translating secret military documents and blogs. The focus of the research centered on 3,000 miles of underground tunnels dug by China's Second Artillery Corps. The investigation was launched after 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province revealed existence of collapsed tunnels. Study claims China could have as many as 3,000 nuclear warheads—far more than current estimates of between 80 and 400.
That's from dailymail.co.uk from the article Chinese Nuclear Arsenal Seven Times Bigger .
So watch for an unstable peace between many Asian nations leading to warfare. Problems between India and Pakistan will continue. Watch for political instability to increase as millions of people in India now enter the middle class, seeking greater political freedom and wealth.
So, the fifth point is the creation of a powerful Asian superpower as prophesied there in Revelation.
6. The church of God to complete the great commission.
The complete gospel message of the Kingdom of God must be preached to all the nations of the world. This is the commission given to God's church; and, of course, here in the United Church of God, we take this imperative very seriously.
Matthew:24:13-14 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. – "But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."
But we are warned that a time will come when the gospel message will be thwarted.
Amos 8 is where I want to go right now. Let's take a look at Amos's prophecy. Amos:8:9And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: . We are told that the gospel message will be no longer publicly available.
Amos:8:9And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: – "And it shall come to pass in that day," and when we read "in that day," we are talking about the end time. "And it shall come to pass in that day," says the Lord GOD, "That I will make the sun go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in broad daylight..."
That is also something that's prophesied to happen—one of the seals of Revelation, the heavenly signs. So this is an end-time prophecy here.
V. 11-12 – "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord God, "That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it."
In v. 11 God says it was a famine of hearing His words and that this is an end-time prophecy can also be seen, like I said, by those heavenly signs mentioned in v. 9 . You may recall what we read in Revelation:13:6-7 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.  And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. earlier. I'll read them back to you again.
Revelation:13:6-7 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.  And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. – Then the beast opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
What we're seeing here is that God's church will be so severely persecuted it will no longer be able to effectively preach the gospel. So what does God do? He brings His two witnesses to begin preaching at the same time that the great tribulation befalls the descendants of Jacob. So it seems that this famine of the word will occur prior to the tribulation when destruction and captivity is imminent.
With the coming famine of God's word in mind, we should have the same urgent mind set that Jesus Christ had during His human ministry. Here's what He told His disciples in John:9:4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. . Christ said:
John:9:4I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. – "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work."
Revelation:10:11And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. is where I'd like to go to next on this point of completing the great commission. There is coming a time when no one can work when it comes to preaching the gospel, when there will be a famine of the word. And we see in Revelation:10:11And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. what God decides to do and what He said He will do.
Revelation:10:11And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings. – And he said to me, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings."
V. 11 tells us the prophecies here will be explained and proclaimed to all the nations and tongues and kings at the time of the end. The whole world will hear this. God plans to ensure that the final proclamation of His prophecies and the gospel itself grabs the attention of all people. So that moves us into Revelation:11:1And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. , where John says:
Revelation:11:1-2 And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.  But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. – Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months..."
So, how long is forty-two months again? Jerusalem will be occupied by God's enemies, and they'll be treading the holy city underfoot for three and a half years.
V. 3 – "And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."
Opposing the beast and the false prophet will be God's two witnesses. Jerusalem will find itself in the vortex of a great spiritual battle, as prophesied events reach a climax. The two witnesses will be preaching the gospel of the Kingdom after the Church of God is no longer able to.
So watch for the Church of God to preach the gospel until it is literally shut down. Watch for the church to expand its technology to preach the gospel in many languages to reach literally billions of people around the world. Watch for the Church of God to be increasingly targeted by governments and the public for its unique beliefs. Some of these may include the observation of the Sabbath and the annual holy days; rejection of Christmas, Easter, and the atheistic evolution apostasies; the upholding of God's dietary laws; and the biblical belief in a God family and the rejection of the unbiblical concept of the trinity. These are not popular concepts today that we hold.
Watch for God to use two uniquely called individuals to receive international media attention and to powerfully preach the gospel in a warning message to the entire world. And these two witnesses won't need to tell you they're the two witnesses. It will be obvious. Watch for God to use the technologies that mankind has discovered to instantly reach billions of people of all languages with the gospel message—and we're seeing that more and more as each day goes by. Right now, we can upload a Beyond Today program to our website and embed it on Youtube and you can click and have it translated into your language as a subtitle. There is a huge array of languages that it can be translated into. We don't even have to provide the transcript. You listen to the English voice speaking and translate it into the language of your choice.
So we see knowledge becoming much more available, especially the knowledge of the Kingdom of God in so many languages. So watch for God to use these technologies to help preach the gospel to billions of people.
So our sixth point is the Church of God completes the great commission.
7. The bride of Christ prepares for His return.
The end-time Church of God prepares itself spiritually and mentally to serve the living Christ upon His return to earth. This preparation time to become ready is necessary to prepare the saints to rule in the Kingdom of God, to be leaders and teachers of God's way in the future. These are people filled with God's Spirit who believe the purpose of their lives is to serve others and to develop the fruit of God's Holy Spirit within themselves.
Revelation:19:7Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. talks about the bride being prepared for Christ's return. I'll read through to v. 9 .
Of course, we are right now up to the end of all the seals of Revelation, heading toward the end of the story.
Revelation:19:7-9 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.  And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God. – Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. So we have to make ourselves ready. It doesn't just happen automatically. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."
Watch for God's church, those who have God's Spirit, to become more zealous and committed disciples. Watch for them to focus on spiritual growth and developing the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I'd like to turn to just one final passage before I conclude here. That's Galatians:5:24-25 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. . Paul exhorted the Galatians and told them:
Galatians:5:24-25 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. – And those who are Christ's, those who will be at the marriage supper of the Lamb, have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Paul makes a contrast here in Galatians 5 between the works of evil and the works of the Holy Spirit. And so he says, "Let us walk in the Spirit."
The seventh point is the bride of Christ prepares for His return.
So what would be point 8, if we had one? Then the Kingdom of God arrives! It's the end of this present evil age when the world enters a new age, a new beginning where peace and true religion prevail. A time when all of humanity will be offered salvation and eternal life. This world will become a wonderful place, with Jesus Christ as our King and Leader. And that's the message that we preach today, the gospel of the Kingdom of God. That would be point 8, God's Kingdom being established on this earth. And as we look forward to the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles, we are reminded and we picture and we imagine in our minds what that will be like, when God's Kingdom replaces the kingdoms of this world. It will be a stark contrast to what we see today. The hunger, the suffering, the child slavery, the wars, the violence, the riots, will be a thing of the past, ancient history. This world will be a different place in the Kingdom of God.
So, back to our introduction. Do you like to stay informed on weather reports for our area? I get accused of doing that. It's good to know if rain or sunshine is in the forecast. They're quite good at forecasting tomorrow's weather; but we know that true sunshine is in the forecast, don't we? But, think. How good are you at discerning the signs of the times? Jesus told us to "watch therefore." If we are watching carefully and staying close to God, we will see when the spiritual fig tree is blooming. We'll see and know and will expect that the Kingdom of God is very near.
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