Jesus foretold dire times are ahead for humanity. Why did He give prior warning? What should you do?
Is the end of the world imminent? Many people believe it. According to Reuters News Service, one out of every seven people in countries as diverse as China, Germany, South Africa and the United States believe that the end of the world is going to happen in their lifetime (Reuters, May 1, 2012).
This concern has fueled renewed interests in the predictions of Nostradamus. There have been countless speculations on the mysteries of the Mayan calendar. We've also seen a growing Christian movement announcing the end of the world based on the biblical book of Revelation.
Fueling people's fears are the very real problems we're all facing - fears of economic crisis, terrorism, loss of trust in the political system and social unrest.
Jesus Christ said that He would return to save humanity in a time of terrible crisis. He didn't predict His return to be the end of the world, but the saving of the world. Let's look beyond today to "Christ's Second Coming: What Are the Signs?"
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[Gary] Sometimes it seems like our personal lives and the framework of society itself, is being pulled apart. We live in an age of anxiety. To make matters worse, we face a constant barrage of predictions of gloom and doom.
The voices of economic experts, scientists, religious leaders, and social commentators are shouting a warning of imminent global disasters. And you're just trying to sort out how to keep your job, deal with rising energy costs and put food on the table.
We all know that both personal and governmental debt is going to have a crushing impact on our future, but nobody seems to know how to fix it. And how do you even begin to sort through theories of global warming, rising population, declining food supplies, famine in many countries, and failing health?
It's not just news pundits and radio talk show hosts who are warning of economic, environmental and social disaster. The U.S. based Smithsonian magazine recently ran an article titled "The Limits of Growth." The article claimed, "Recent research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: The world is on track for disaster. So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s, The Limits to Growth…The business-as-usual scenario estimated that if human beings continued to consume more than nature was capable of providing, global economic collapse and precipitous population decline could occur by 2030."
The alarms that humanity is facing monumental problems are sounding everywhere. But nobody can agree on the solutions. So, you and I must face the very real possibility of environmental, social and economic chaos in our lifetime.
It's no wonder that many Christians are asking the questions: Is Christ going to return soon? What are the signs of His return?
Jesus' disciples asked Him the same questions. They sat together on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city of Jerusalem, and asked, "What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" Jesus' response is called the Olivet Prophecy. In it, it is Jesus' longest and most detailed prophecy about His second coming recorded in the New Testament.
Now, He begins His response with, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:4-8 Matthew 24:4-8  And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
 And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
American King James Version×).
The trends mentioned in these verses aren't the final signs of Christ's second coming. Notice the words, "but the end is not yet." These trends are the "beginning of sorrows." Jesus goes on in His Olivet Prophecy to show that when these trends reach a global crisis point, then you can begin to look for the signs of His return.
So let's look at these trends, predicted by Jesus Christ, and how they reflect the times in which we are presently living.
Now, the first trend comes as a warning. Jesus said, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
One of the trends Jesus predicted was increasing religious conflict. In the past century, the historical violent clash between traditional Christianity of the western world and Islam has once again escalated to global conflict. At the same time, many Christians are turning their backs on the Bible as the inspired Word of God. Religious confusion and deception, is increasing.
A little later, we'll show you how this time of religious confusion will lead to a revival that will appear to be Christian, but will propagate violence and in fact be anti-Christ.
The second trend Jesus described is "wars and rumors of wars."
Many of our viewers around the world are already living in countries that are in the middle of civil and ethnic war. The destabilization of the world economy is going to cause increasing global conflict over resources like oil - and even just for food and water. We know that there are economic problems in Greece and Spain. We know that the United States is facing high unemployment. But just how precarious is the situation?
One reason for the ongoing global economic crisis is the crushing weight of the U.S. national debt. Very similar debt scenarios exist in many countries all over the world.
But how bad is the U.S. national debt crisis?
Well let's break the situation down into understandable numbers with a family budget analogy. Now picture a family of four with an income of $46,000, annual expenditures of $78,000, and credit card debt of $281,000. Now think about this - a family that earns $46,000 a year, but they spend $78,000 a year and have credit card debt of $281,000. There's no way for that family to continue to pay their bills, or even pay the interest on the credit cards.
How long would it be before that family had to foreclose on their home? How long would it be before the credit companies cancelled their cards?
Well, these figures are proportionate to the U.S. government's income, outlays and accumulated debt. Realistically, how long can this go on without total economic collapse? It's only a matter of time. And we're seeing this in many other countries that have already faced economic collapse.
The decline of U.S. power created by this economic crisis will create new opportunities for other nations to step into the power vacuum. Hot spots of wars and rumors of wars will pop up in Africa, Asia, between Pakistan and India - old feuds and new conflicts will arise over borders, resources and religion. The Middle East will continue to be a magnet drawing the major powers of the world into the age-old conflicts between the children of Abraham.
Nations will compete over the natural resources needed by every industrial nation to run cars, power electronics and put food on the table.
Between wars, natural disasters, economic crisis, rising populations and dwindling food supplies, famine and disease epidemics are unavoidable. The world will be facing, just as Jesus predicted, "...famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places."
Over the past few decades we have not witnessed the disease epidemics that have plagued humanity for thousands of years. Because of modern science, smallpox, bubonic plague and other diseases have almost disappeared. But every once in a while, an outbreak of bird flu or Ebola, reminds us that a mutated strain of a virus could spread around the globe like wildfire.
Well at this point someone will be saying, but there have always been disease epidemics and war. So how is this "beginning of sorrows" different than the Middle Ages or World War II? The answer is found in the book of Revelation.
Before we go to Revelation, let me tell you about how to get your free copy of The Book of Revelation Unveiled. This study guide will help you decipher the complexities of the book of Revelation. You can learn the meaning of the seven seals, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, the mysterious two women, and the Day of the Lord. If you want to understand the signs of Christ's second coming, you need to read this important study guide.
In North America, to order your copy of The Book of Revelation Unveiled call: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632, or go online to BeyondToday.tv. For viewers around the world, you can read this booklet online or get a copy sent to you by going to BeyondToday.tv - or send us a letter to the address that you see on your screen.
Jesus was asked, "What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" He began His answer by describing a time He called "the beginning of sorrows." He predicted global trends of religious confusion, wars, famine, disease and natural disasters. He went on in the Olivet Prophecy, to predict that after this time of "beginning of sorrows" there will be a terrible time called the Tribulation followed by the visible signs of His return.
At this point, some are quick to point out that there have always been religious confusion, wars, famine, disease and natural disasters. I mean the last century witnessed World War I, the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918, the Great Depression, World War II, and the rise of communism that spawned wars and rumors of wars. There are also many natural disasters. I mean tsunamis, earthquakes, catastrophic hurricanes. So how will this time of the "beginning of sorrows" be any different than other times in history?
Well we find the answer to that question in the book of Revelation. The first words of Revelation are "The Revelation of Jesus Christ..." The subject of the book is stated in chapter one verse seven: "Behold, He" - speaking of Jesus Christ - "is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, [and] they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him." The setting of the prophecies of Revelation is the return of Jesus Christ to set up God's Kingdom on the earth.
In this mysterious book, the apostle John is given a vision of a scroll sealed with seven seals. The apostle John is so distraught that no one can open the seals that he actually breaks down and he cries. He is then told that Jesus Christ can open the seals. In Revelation 6, John records the opening of the first of these seals by Jesus Christ.
A careful study of Revelation reveals that the first four seals are trends that are going to happen before the dramatic signs of Christ's second coming. In fact, the first four seals of Revelation 6, also known as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, parallel what Jesus called the "beginning of sorrows."
So we're going to look at this. So let's look at John's vision in Revelation 6 and we'll see how this parallels what we just covered in Matthew 24.
John writes, "Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, 'Come and see.' And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer."
Now later in Revelation, John describes Christ appearing on a white horse. In the opening of the first seal we have a vision of a time now that's before Christ's return. So this is a vision of a false religion, appearing to be Christ-like, conquering nations in the name of religion.
Remember what Jesus predicted in the Olivet Prophecy? "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." Notice that these false teachers come in the name of Christ. The vision given to John in Revelation 6 parallels the prophecy given by Christ on the Mount of Olives. Appearing as Christian, this religious system will, in actuality, be anti-Christ.
Now let's look at the second seal of Revelation 6: "When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, 'Come and see.' Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword."
War and rumors of wars - just as Jesus predicted would happen during the time of the "beginning of sorrows."
Now the third seal is opened: "When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, 'Come and see.' So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand."
Now this corresponds with Jesus' predictions of famine.
And when the fourth seal was opened, and "He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, 'Come and see.' So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him."
Now once again, we find the same predictions, disease and pestilence as Jesus' Olivet Prophecy.
Now, we're still faced with the question of how is this time, "the beginning of sorrows," any different than what has already happened in history? I mean all of human history is a story of religious strife, wars and populations decimated by diseases, earthquakes and floods.
Well the answer to how Jesus' "beginning of sorrows," corresponds with the time of the four horsemen, as different than any other time in history is explained in the last sentence of Revelation 6:8 Revelation 6:8And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given to them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
American King James Version×: "And power was given to them" - this is the four horsemen - "over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and [with] the beasts of the earth."
This "beginning of sorrows," that ends in the death of 25 percent of the world's population, isn't the time that the Bible calls the Tribulation but is the launching pad for the rise of the Anti-Christ, the Tribulation, the Day of the Lord and the second coming of Christ.
It's a little frightening isn't it? So what do we do? How do Christians prepare for the "time of sorrows" that happens before the Tribulation?
Well, the most important step you can take in preparing for the uncertain future is to stay focused on God and His involvement in your daily life. Do a personal Bible study on the promises God makes to those who dedicate their lives to Him. Now, if you don't know how to do that, get a concordance. You can get one online or you can just go get a concordance if you've never seen one. And look up the biblical passages that show God's faithfulness. What a concordance is, it's a book that list all the places where a word is used in the Bible. Look up faithfulness. Look up promises. Find where God has said to be faithful and find where God makes promises - promises to you, if you are willing to dedicate your life to Him. In doing that, what you're going to find is, you're going to see how God is going to help you through the times that are to come.
Now secondly, prepare to lower your standard of living. Get out of debt! If you must use a credit card, forgo buying anything that isn't absolutely necessary. Learn the discipline of living within your means.
And a third important step is to get your priorities in order. Family, belonging to a solid Bible teaching church, taking care of your health - these are all more important than buying a car you can't afford or working yourself to death and missing out on the lives of your children.
Dedicating your life to God, living within your means and setting the right life priorities will help you prepare for the uncertain and difficult times ahead. Doing these things will not just prepare you for the tough times, but help you have a better life today.
Now we're going to talk more about the "beginning of sorrows" and how you as a Christian can prepare for those times, but first let me tell you about The Good News magazine.
When you order your free copy of The Book of Revelation Unveiled, we will also send you a free subscription to The Good News magazine. The Good News magazine is a valuable tool to help you make sense of an increasingly chaotic world. Every other month, you will receive a full color issue with articles about the economic crisis facing the world, how biblical prophecies are unfolding in the events of the Middle East and the promise of a brighter future in the Kingdom of God. Every issue contains articles on practical Christian living and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
In North America, to request your free subscription call: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. You can also read The Good News online at BeyondToday.tv. For viewers around the world, you can read this booklet online or get a copy sent to you by going to BeyondToday.tv or sending us a letter to the address on your screen.
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[Gary] We're joined by fellow Beyond Today hosts Darris McNeely and Steve Myers. In the Olivet Prophecy Jesus predicts that major trends will be happening before the final Tribulation and His second coming. He predicted religious confusion, wars, famine, diseases and natural disasters. Now guys, some would say that these things have always been happening so what makes this different than what's happened throughout history?
[Darris] Well it's true that we've always had disasters of the nature described within those prophecies. The intensity is what is going to be increasing at the time of the end. When you read some of those prophecies of the earthquakes, the types of deceptions that will take place that will even deceive people who are called the very elect, the intensity rises and increases at the time of the end to where the stage is set for some of the biggest fulfillments of those prophecies that have really never been fulfilled and no times like that...
[Gary] We've never had 25 percent of the globe's population die. That's amazing.
[Steve] Well no wonder it's called the Great Tribulation. Matthew 24 puts that adjective on it to describe it to offset it from anything that's happened in the past. So it is something entirely different, something unique.
[Gary] Now why is this called, Jesus called it the "beginning of sorrows?" Why did He call it the "beginning of sorrows?"
[Darris] Well, worse times are to come. Again, you talk about 25 percent of the earth's population dying. That's two billion people. Nothing allows you to even wrap your mind around that to understand the impact upon the world, upon families, and upon nations. It will tax and overload the capacity of even the most developed nation to be able to deal with that.
Stars falling, those prophecies when you read them and take them for what they tell you, there is nothing to really to compare. It's the time of what was described in the book of Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×unlike any time in the past.
[Steve] Interesting part in that particular passage where it talks about the beginning of sorrows is that that word in the Greek really means birth pains, in the process of giving birth. And so here Christ is comparing these difficulties to come like giving birth. And anyone that's gone through that process, the ladies tell us that it starts out with some minor contractions but then it gets worse and worse and stronger and more painful as that process goes on. So as, as we look forward to the birth of the Kingdom of God, there's going to be some difficult trials and tribulations that are going to come.
[Gary] And of course these four horsemen are just the beginning of sorrows and actually there's a whole series of events that have to happen after that including the Day of the Lord which is horrible when you look at what is going to happen at that time just before Christ's return. So understanding this is very important. I want to move ahead a little bit to the return of Jesus Christ. When Jesus returns, is it the end of the world?
[Steve] It's not the end of the world. If you go back to the question that the disciples asked Christ at the beginning of Matthew 24, they said what would be the sign and the end of this age; so the end of this time period, this era, this era when man rules. Man has had his opportunity to govern his kingdoms and yet that is all going to come to an end because we have seen the results of man's kingdoms. And his era, his time is going to be done because we can't solve our problems. We can't come to peace. We can't get along with each other and so we need Christ to establish His Kingdom to bring peace, to bring that kind of stability and bring the Kingdom of God to earth.
[Darris] I think another reason people can't get beyond this idea of the end of the world, that it's the end of the world, because of all the apocalyptic literature and portrayals of this, not just biblical events but of, even modern events. I mean, from science fiction to what is the post-apocalyptic genre of movies today presents just a hopeless picture. People are fascinated by that and they confuse that. I would say to people read the Scriptures. Read the hope of the Bible and the truth that is there and then you will be able to understand that it's not the end of the world, it's the end of an age but the beginning of the Kingdom of God.
[Gary] And that's why we call this program Beyond Today. We're always looking beyond to what God is doing. That no matter how difficult this time becomes, over time, that God is going to fix things. And Christ is coming back not to destroy the world but actually to save it.
[Steve] Yeah I think that is the good news. You get beyond the doom and the gloom that so many focus on and there is something beyond that. There is the hope of the Kingdom of God and that's really the ultimate hope, the ultimate good news.
[Gary] So, how should a person prepare themselves for the time of sorrows? Looking ahead, saying okay, if that's going to happen possibly in our lifetime, how do we prepare for that?
[Darris] I always take people back to the scripture in 2 Peter 3 where it talks about the sure sign of the Day of the Lord that will come. These events will take place and he says, Peter writes, because these things will happen, what manner of people should we become? Prepare yourselves for a time when, where righteousness will dwell. It comes down to a matter of living righteously today according to the words of the Book - the Bible - and God's way of life, getting in line with that, and aligning ourselves now with that in preparation for a time of judgment to come. That's the best preparation.
[Steve] So many get it confused. They think they need to build a bunker. They need to stockpile weapons...
[Gary] Stash food...
[Steve] ...food or crazy things like that, when that's really just the opposite. Instead of worrying about our physical sense, our physical being, we better worry about our spiritual wellbeing. So we can then be ready. We can be spiritually set for the return of Christ.
[Gary] And if there has even been a time to be on your knees, it's now.
[Gary] Make sure you call or go online for our free study guide: The Book of Revelation Unveiled. It is a very important booklet that will help you understand the times in which we live. You'll better understand Jesus' own words about conditions on this earth right before He returns. If you're not already a subscriber, we will also sign you up for a free subscription to The Good News magazine. Each issue will give you much needed biblical direction to your life.
In North America, to request your free study guide and subscription call: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. You can also read The Good News online at BeyondToday.tv.
For viewers around the world you can access The Book of Revelation Unveiled and The Good News at Beyond Today.tv. Or you may order a copy to be sent directly to you, by mailing us a request to the address on your screen.
It is easy to look at the confusion of the world around us, dwell on the negative trends, and feel that the future is bleak and meaningless. The opposite is true. There are some bad times ahead for humanity, but Jesus Christ told us that these things would happen. He told us in advance so that we wouldn't despair when we see it happen, but know that God is going to save us from ourselves.
None of us know exactly when Jesus is going to return. But between now and then the Creator wants to have a relationship with you. He wants to be involved in your life to prepare you to fulfill the purpose He has in store for you - to be a child in His family.
Now we'll be right back with one final comment right after this.
[Narrator] Christ came to earth with a central message of the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? Most have never heard or understood what Jesus actually taught on this subject. The United Church of God is hosting free seminars held simultaneously around the world.
[Steve] That Kingdom is coming to earth - that was the message of Jesus Christ. It's not a Kingdom that's off up there in heaven but it's a Kingdom that Christ is going to establish right here on this earth.
[Narrator] Go to KOGSeminars.org for details to find one near you. Kingdom of God Bible Seminars - giving the message of hope for tomorrow, beginning today.
[Gary] Sign up to attend these Bible seminars today. Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in constantly praying, "Thy Kingdom come." For Beyond Today I'm Gary Petty, and thanks for watching.
[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today's program, go online to BeyondToday.tv. Please join us again next week on Beyond Today!