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Should I care about Signs of the Times?

R. Battista - Villa Aurora Adventist University

When it comes to identification - and consequent interpretation - of the Signs of Time a certain amount of questions comes to mind. The first is the most obvious: Can we draw from the Bible a consistent pattern of development of these Signs of the Time? A kind of pattern that functions as a sort of “History’s clock, a Hourglass?
And then: As a Christian, how could I be alert and able to preach the Gospel, flawlessly, in its integrity, without omission, avoiding, at the same time, fanaticism and misleading interpretations?
As a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, how can I find the balance between the belief of the Bible with its prophetic chronologies, which have set the milestones along the path of history, and the amazing, unpredictable, essence of the crucial event called the Parousia?
The last but not the least: What is or what are distinctive of our time?
To introduce the subject, allow me to compare two types of statements belonging to the same context of Matthew, (Chapters 24 and 25). For briefness, since it is not a Bible study, I will stick only to the Gospel of Matthew.
On the one hand, Jesus reveals the basic principle, the fact that the Day of His Return is a matter known exclusively to the Father. Which is not surprising. But even more, He states unambiguously that, a fortiori, not even His disciples will know it!
"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Mt.25, 13)
On the other hand, to eradicate at the outset the idea, that an eschatological conscience might be of little importance, comes the word of the Master:
“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. "So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near -- at the doors!” (Mt. 24:32-33)
Jesus, who said : "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. (Mt. 25:13), is now equally firm, in saying what we could and should have constantly monitored: The Signs.
At this point let me ask a further question: Could we say, therefore, that the historical facts occur, develop and follow each other, so as to be read with the same confidence with which we read the book of nature? - “Now learn this parable from the fig tree”…
The Gospel itself seems to experience the difficulty which lies in the diversity of the two areas: the history of the human and the nature cycles:
“But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt. 24:37)
The parallel between the times of Noah and those of the End, shows that in the world of unbelievers, no evidence is liable! The same insouciance and apparent peace and prosperity characterizes the two fatal moments of human history. The juxtaposition of these two events, allow us, however, to single out an important sign, a concomitant factor: The environmental alarm, moral crisis, deceptive spiritualities, socio-economics conflicts, wars, the eclipse of the True God from the horizons of two civilizations, were not perceived at all.
“For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, "and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Mt. 24:38-39)
But our approach could be a double edged sword. In fact we have just said that there is a strong analogy between the past and present. Therefore, what value resides in certain signs of the time?
Given that …since the days of Noah, has nothing changed?
"For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 "All these are the beginning of sorrows.”
The sequence of signs, even well-known, that we find in this Bible chapters alerts us, keep us in suspense. They follow each other proclaiming that the end is near, but at the same time, none of them is the end. Could we therefore say that there is still a gap between the range of signs of the times and the Day of the Return of Christ? The answer ultimately belongs only to those who live these final events…!
From our point of view, there is a sure response suggested in the following two verses:
“For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Mt. 24:27).
"And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!' "Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.” (Mt. 25:6,7).
The element of surprise, the suddenness of the event, remains strong and not diminished by the meaning and role of precursor signs. A separate discussion would deserve the sleep of the Virgins. Is the essence on of the above parable on the fatal and inherent of the human nature or could it have been avoided? The parable does not tell us, being its focus the Oil.
The incrementing/augmentation inherent in signs, culminates in the Sign par excellence:
"Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (Mt. 24:30) The upper most sign is clearly that of the Son of Man himself!
At this point, for those who have faithfully waited for Him, the tension between the precursor signs and the Sign of His coming is nullified. With this, will the element of surprise, for believers of the last generation, make no sense? At this point, will the clock of History of Salvation incisively and mathematically mark the lives of the believers of the last generation? I do not know, now.
For me the answer is crucial to one of the questions mentioned at the beginning: What is or what are distinctive of our time?
The signs of a political, social, economic, religious and spiritual, listed in Matthew 24, have always appeared in human history in different forms and proportions. Of course, speaking of World War I and World War II, it is impossible to find an equality of such kind in history, but if I really desire to, then, apart from comparisons on the harshness and resurgence of the phenomena, What is or what are distinctive of our time, there emerges a common factor: Every event, large or small, has planetary repercussions. Certainly, many parts of the moral decadence of our time, also occur in the distant past. Sometimes with brazenness greater than/ or equal to today.
We must admit, that the masqueraded widespread power behind the communication network that connects the planet, is increasingly influencing the apparent reality of politics and economics and is homogenizing the world toward a unity that could have problematic connotations.
But, In this scenario, we are not alone, we are not victims. “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.” (Mt. 24:14).
If the great powers of this world, are working towards the global control of the destinies of nations, God also has his own global strategy.
It 's wonderful to see how the supreme Signs of His coming, is found in the Gospel preached to the whole world, and the Sign of the Son of Man. This remains the only hope for a devastated world with a certain awareness of its disaster, but generally speaking, unaware of the Ultimate Solution.

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