15. One Minute To Twelve
From early September 1988, when pen was first put
to paper in the writing of this booklet it was intended that it should be just
that- a booklet. Some of the topics touched on here could have been developed
much more fully. But from the start the intention has been to give reminders, to
stimulate enquiry, to set discussion and Bible searching going among those who
should have oil in their vessels but don't.
Now, as a back-up to the foregoing, here is a
sequence of paragraphs making brief mention of the other signs to which
Scripture and current events steer attention. Most of these signs- the
unbeliever could very well argue - are of too general a character to be regarded
as signs specific enough to convince a critical mind. That is a false argument.
Of course there have been pestilences. Of course there have been wars. Of course
there has been a threat of nuclear convulsion, for over forty years, but only a
threat. And so on. But the real force of a catalogue such as now follows is that
now in our time these signs all accumulate together and in the eyes of
anyone who is not too busy providing fulfilments by his own worldly self-centred
heedlessness, these phenomena all have a specially pointed relevance to this
miserably clever twentieth century. It is when the stark facts are considered
from such an angle, that unbelieving hearts should have attacks of angina- or
alternatively, should give way to the logic of these God-controlled events and
so move at a step into a lasting sense of assurance and tranquillity. When a man
can see that the Second Coming is near, he stops asking, "Whatever is the world
coming to7" He knows!
1. "As it was in the days of
Then, not only was there a massive landslide away
from godliness-"thee (only) have I seen righteous before me" (that last
phrase implies religious decay); but also "the earth was filled with
violence." No commentary needed!
2. "As it was in the days of
The men of Sodom not only enjoyed luxury and got
a kick out of violence, but they also specialized in sodomy- what our modern
society has tried to make respectable under the polysyllabic label:
And it is to be noted that in the times of Noah
and Lot they were busy with their eating and drinking, buying and selling,
planting and building, marrying and giving in marriage right up to the time when
the judgment of God fell. "Thus shall it be in the day when the Son of Man is
revealed.” No opportunity for a “death bed"
3. "Wars and rumours of
Since the greatest war of all time finished,
there has never been a let-up. Always, in any of those forty years there have
been at least three or four wars going on somewhere. And with Gaddafi's plastic
explosives, terrorists everywhere are having the time of their lives, and of
other people's deaths.
It is one of the most sickly ironies in human
history that at a time when human cleverness has made two ears of corn grow
instead of one in huge areas of the world, in other huge areas of the world
people are dying in their millions through wars and failure of crops. Farmers
have to be paid vast sums not to work so hard, not to grow so much; and what
they have grown is given away lavishly, but doesn't reach the desperate starving
souls who clamour for it. "Whom the gods would destroy they first drive mad".
In all history wars and famines have bred
pestilences. But today, such is man’s cleverness, this process must needs
be accelerated. "Malaria is now eliminated" was the triumphant cry; but now that
great tropical killer has resumed its sway. We know how to cope with TB and
measles, yet still they slay their millions. But such scourges as these are in
the background today, for now THE incurable horror is being helped to pep up its
efficiency by sexual depravity in every nation, and by the brainless philosophy
that says to itself "I'm willing to chance it.”
To be sure, this weary Earth has always been
complaining about human wickedness, but again the folly of modern times
accentuates the grumbling of the ground and the roar of rubble. Always the mad
philosophy is: "It won't happen to us." But soon at the San Andreas fault, and
at the Mount of Olives, Earth will make its most significant protest, but by
that time it will be too late. For some time now the earthquakes have been
intensifying, both statistically and on the Richter Scale, and also in our human
awareness, thanks to newsmen hungry for another sensation.
7. "Men's hearts failing them for
This comes in a context of signs in the sun, moon
and stars, that is, in Israel (see "The Time of the End", H.A.W.
ch.11). And the next phrase is "distress of nations with perplexity". Today the
reading: "with no way out" is widely recognised. But why such slowness to see
also that this foretells: "distress (in Israel!) caused by Gentiles"? (see ch. 8
in this booklet). Years ago the P.L.O. was pronounced dead and done with. Yet
still, in 1989!, it poses the biggest threat Jews have to face. Its deadly wound
has been healed.
8. Nuclear destruction
There will be home-made earthquakes as well. The
Nuclear Club grows in number and in indiscipline. Every year or two another
member dedicated to international benevolence creeps in by the back door. How
long before some crazy dictator, intent on showing that his Big Bang is as big
as the Creator's, presses a button to prove it? There are scriptures enough
(Isaiah ch. 24, 25, 34; Jeremiah 25; Zechariah 14, 2 Peter 3; and sundry purple
passages in Revelation) to indicate that when at last God wearies of mankind He
will give them license to use their ingenious toys-"every man's sword against
his brother". In five prophecies the idea is the same though the words are
different (see "Jews, Arabs and Bible Prophecy", H.A.W.,
9. "Perilous Times"
The entire paragraph - 2 Tim. 3: 1-5 needs to be
considered in detail. Of course there have been other periods in the history of
this "civilisation" of ours when one phrase or another in this purple passage
have been relevant enough. But it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to
point to any other epoch when these characteristics of society have been so
palpably and simultaneously true. The argument about "wars, famines,
pestilences, earthquakes" all intensifying together in this present generation
stands true here also.
10. "Peace and Safety"
- and instead of these, "sudden destruction". But
this, contrary to much uninformed guesswork, is not about a gasp of relief at
UNO or Geneva or Jerusalem, but about those who take pride in knowing (and in
knowing that they know) the Plan of God and its impending climax. On this, see
"The Time of the End"; H.A.W., ch. 16. When at midnight there is a cry made:
"Behold, the Bridegroom!" All the virgins will be asleep, and their lamps out.
For many of them, "sudden destruction". How many? Five out of
1988 – What Went Wrong?
The fortieth year from the foundation of the
state of Israel found many Christadelphians (though not all!) in a state of
foundering expectation. Instead of an ecstatic welcoming of the Kingdom or at
least a year of matchless excitement at unmistakable preliminaries about the
personal appearance of the Lord of Glory, there was a non-year — a dreary
depressing sequence of human blunders, disasters such as the hyper clever 20th
century is good at.
Were those 1988 expectations well founded? Yes,
of course they were.
Good Bible Evidence
Thus strong Bible evidence, combined with the
stark facts of modern history point emphatically to 1988 as the crisis
- The parable of the fig-tree (Mt.24: 32) speaks of the revival
of Israel. Can this be argued against? The Bible evidence is too clear and
emphatic. See "Bible Studies", ch.6.02.
- "This generation
shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled" (Mt.24: 34). Here, "these
things" can only refer to the preceding paragraph, all of which is about the
- But what about "this generation'?
Certainly not the generation to which Jesus spoke. Nearly 2,000 years empty of
significant Jewish history have proved this (but there is a reason, not to be
gone into now, why our Lord should use the expression ambiguously here). In two
places not to be swept aside (Mt.23: 36; Heb.3: 9, 10, 17) this word
"generation" is given the precise meaning of "forty
- When did the fig-tree nation begin to blossom?
It hardly seems possible to put a finger on any date except 1948. It is
true that some try to rationalize a later date by opting for 1967, the year when
Jerusalem, all of it, became the capital of the Israeli state. Against this it
can surely be urged (i) the fig tree was blossoming well before that date. (ii)
It is difficult to believe that our crazy modern civilisation can continue all
the way to 2007 without blowing Israel and itself to bits long before that date
And that conclusion proved to be wrong.
The short answer, not too clear until explained
(sorry!) is this:
There is no Bible evidence that God's purpose
with his ancient people and with His elect is tied to a rigid unbudgeable
chronology. Our forefathers bequeathed to us the big unwarranted assumption that
it is. Hence a century of wrecked expectations.
On the other hand there is a vast amount of
Bible evidence that significant developments in God's Purpose depend on
contingencies — upon the disposition and attitudes of those with whom God
It is important first to illustrate and then
prove the truth of this neglected principle.
These are only illustrations. The proof
of the principle — which the fulfilment of God's declared will depends
on the people He is dealing with, is available in the existence of another
thirty examples and more. And Jeremiah 18: 7-10 declares the principle in words
that a child can understand.
- At Kadesh-barnea faithless Israel chose to believe the
faithless spies instead of being guided by faithful Joshua and Caleb. For this
they were condemned to forty years of wandering in the wilderness. But suppose
the people had adhered in faith to the counsel of Joshua and Caleb. In that case
those forty years would have been replaced with forty days of exhilarating
victorious conquest. Little faith - belated fulfilment. Firm faith - prompt
- Good king Hezekiah was mortally ill.
The prophet of the Lord was sent to him: 'Set thine house in order. Thou shalt
die, and not live". 'No!' wailed Hezekiah; 'death cannot praise thee. I must
live and not die'. That importunity added fifteen years to his life. A drastic
change in the divine purpose with a godly man.
forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" The message of Jonah rang through
the Assyrian metropolis. However, a century later that greatest city of the 8th
century B.C. I was still flourishing. Another dramatic change in the declared
divine purpose! And why? Because king and people of that great city repented at
the awesome threat from heaven.
- More than once the
intercession of Moses saved his people from an outpouring of the wrath of God.
After the sin of the golden calf—'Out of my way, Moses! I will consume
them, and start again from you'. But because of the pleading of this great
leader, the threat was not carried out. 'I will not go up (into Canaan) in the
midst of this people', God declared. But he did! Again, it was because Moses
would not be said nay.
There has been no lack of effort to get round the
obvious conclusion indicated by this multitude of examples by bringing in woolly
arguments based on the fore-knowledge of God. Let the reader attempt to work his
way through three dozen examples, explaining away the obvious, and he will find
his "lucid" thesis getting lost in a cloud of verbiage.
Instead, let it be frankly recognised that the
Almighty wants His people to think of Him as a God who, in certain
circumstances, 'changes His mind'. Whether we understand or we don't, Holy
Scripture bids us shape our thinking this way.
A Big N.T. Problem
And now here is the solution to one of the
biggest problems in the NT.
It is not to be gainsaid that the NT writers
looked for an early return of their Lord and they were inspired to write thus.
At least 35 NT passages of this kind are available. These expectations were not
There are three ways of coping with the problem
Instead of this kind of well-intentioned but
unworthy handling of the Word of God, it is suggested that here is another
well-documented example of a dramatic change in the time-fulfilment of God's
purpose because of the unworthiness of Israel and the New Israel in whom it
centres — stubborn rejection of Christ by the former, and spiritual
decadence of the latter.
- To pretend it isn't there.
- 'The Second
Coming is as near as the day of your death'. Why has this glib
“explanation" been so often repeated when as yet no one has found it in
the pages of Holy Scripture? The acceptance of this notion proclaims the
bankruptcy of those from whose tongue it trips so
- The present writer's former desperate
expedient: to find a means of explaining away each separate passage by its own
individual "fiddle"; e.g. "Behold I come quickly" means "I come suddenly"—
which it certainly doesn't; it means "soon" (see as many modern versions as you
like). In any case, this coining of a fresh explanation for each problem passage
at last breaks down under its own weight. Try it, and you will
Here is a group of passages, which enunciate or
clearly imply this idea:
Paraphrased, the first of these quotes says:
'Your repentance and godly living will help to bring nearer the Second Coming of
the Lord'. And the second: 'The delay hitherto in the Lord's return is meant to
provide you believers with an added opportunity for fuller repentance'. It needs
a very clever man to make these words mean anything different from this. Here,
once again, and very clearly, the time of the Lord's return from heaven is
conditioned by the attitude and spiritual disposition of those whom it specially
- "Repent ye therefore, that your sins may be blotted out...and
that he may send Jesus Christ which before was preached unto you" (Acts 3: 19,20
RV). Here the return of the Lord is made dependent on Jewish
- "For if the casting away of them (Israel) be
the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from
(Rom.11: 15). Here, twice over, Paul presents the
connection between Cause and Effect: The rejection of faithless Israel had
already led to the Gospel being taken to receptive Gentiles. All Paul's readers
knew this. So also a change of heart in Israel will lead to the resurrection
(and, therefore, to the Second Coming). Clearly the timing of those great
occasions was and will be determined, or at least influenced, by the spiritual
reaction of the people concerned.
- Rom.11: 25 declares, or at least implies, the same idea:
"Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be
come in". That last phrase seems to imply that one-day the last conversion and
the last baptism among the Gentiles will take place, and with this "fulness" the
blindness of Israel will be finally removed. Certainly there is here once again
a clear connection between unbelieving Israel and believing Gentiles and the
- Except for its last three verses, the
whole of 2 Peter 3 is about the Second Coming. Here are two specially
significant phrases from it: "What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy
conversation (way of life) and godliness, looking for and hastening (see AVm and
most modern versions) the coming of the day of God...and account that the
longsuffering of our Lord is (your) salvation" (v.11, 12,
Now, back to the original
What went wrong in 1988?
The clearest and most precise sign, carefully and
Biblically interpreted, pointed to that year as the time of the last big
development immediately prior to the Day of the Lord — and nothing
Here are two possible explanations, both of them
All this whilst the miseries of the world
intensify, and whilst angels, eager to go into action on their Lord's behalf,
weep over Jerusalem as He did.
- There is a serious unperceived flaw in the reasoning developed
at the beginning of this study. If so, why has no one long since put a finger on
- There is yet again a delay in fulfilment, and this
because Israel and the New Israel are alike unworthy of their high privilege.
Five minutes to midnight, and all the virgins, wise and unwise alike, are
“asleep" — and for more reasons than one. Some are sunk in
tradition, with more reverence for the mistakes of their "pioneers" than for
Holy Scripture. Some — many — have wrapped themselves in the
comforts of an affluent Godless society. Some — not a few! — find
self-congratulation in erecting and maintaining barriers of fellowship between
brother and brother.
More examples of God changing His
Acts 7: 25RV; 1 Kgs. 21: 19, 21RV, 29; 1 Kgs. 20:
42; 2 Sam. 24: 15; Heb.; Gen. 2: 17; Amos 1: 3RVm; Is. 62: 6RV; Lk. 13: 8, 9;
Dt. 28: 1, 15; Acts 1: 6-8; Jn. 1: 23; Jn. 1: 31; Mk. 13: 32; Mt. 23: 39Gk;
(other examples: Mt. 10: 23; 12: 20; Lk. 19: 23; 1 Cor. 4: 5; 11: 26; Jas. 5: 7;
Rev. 2: 25); 1 Kgs. 8: 46-53; Dan. 9: 4-19 (especially v.13); Neh. 1: 5-11; Mal.
4: 5, 6; Is. 17: 7, 8; 40: 3; 59: 20; Zeph. 2: 3; Ezek. 20: 42-44; Ps. 81: 13;
Jer. 4: 1, 2.
New Testament expectation of early return of
Phil. 4: 5; 1 Pet. 4: 7 (cp. use in Mt. 26: 18; 2
Tim. 4: 6); Heb. 10: 37 (cp. Jn. 13: 33); Rom. 16: 20; 1 Cor. 7: 29; Mt. 10: 23;
24: 29; Mt. 16: 27, 28; 1 Pet. 1: 20; Heb. 9: 26; Mt. 13: 40; 24: 3; 1 Jn. 2:
18; 1 Cor. 10: 11; Mt. 26: 64; Lk. 24: 52; Rom. 13: 11, 12; 1 Th. 1: 10, 5: 23;
Heb. 1: 2; 10: 25; Jas. 5: 8, 9; 2 Pet. 2: 3; 1 Jn. 2: 17, 18RV; 2 Pet. 3: 3;
Jn. 21: 22; Rev. 1: 1, 3; 2: 5, 16; 2: 25; 3: 3; 19: 15; 22: 7, 20; 6: 11; 3:
20; 22: 10-12.