1999 – The End of the Sixth Millennium
Will the Lord come this year? How do we read the signs of his coming?
We recognize the following consideration of signs of the times is incomplete and we welcome readers to submit added scriptural points. We are also aware that some have a completely approach to these passages and to the concept of a 7,000 year plan for this creative period. While the following is the way we see it, we welcome discussion of the approach.
Signs that answer “Yes”
- “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24). The long, continuous Gentile domination of Jerusalem ended in 1967. Whether or not Jerusalem is again taken by the Gentiles is irrelevant to the fulfillment of this prophecy. Christ speaks to the treading down existing in his day which was going to continue until, as it turned out, June, 1967. Once that continuum was broken, his servants could confidently say a great era had ended and a new one was beginning. There can thus be absolutely no doubt that we are living through the birth pains of Israel’s revival, which will climax in Messiah’s return and establishment of Israel’s golden age. As we know, Israel yet has a time of great trouble through which to pass, but present developments in the land are a certain precursor of the nearness of the Kingdom of God.
- Israel is to accumulate wealth so that the northern invader will come “to take a spoil, and to take a prey” (Ezk. 38:12). Indeed, Israel has become the nation of wealth we have long anticipated. Her Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is roughly equal to that of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinian territories combined and her annual per capita GDP of $17,000 (US) has now “passed the Western European average” (from the New York Times and from an interview with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Leaders). Israel’s wealth is not in agriculture or natural resources but in science, engineering and computer technology given great impetus by the influx of Soviet Jews. She is rapidly becoming an envied and highly coveted nation.
- “Thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts…against my people of Israel…it shall be in the latter days” (Ezk. 38:15-16). There is nothing like hunger, cold and poverty to drive people to desperate action. As Bro. George Rayner has pointed out three of the past four months (see Signs of the Times), Russia is becoming increasingly desperate for food, fuel and financial stability. And while some disarmament has occurred, Russia still holds a huge stockpile of the most lethal weapons. Currents are running strong for violent action from the north.
- “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14). The prophecy was fulfilled once in respect to the Roman world before Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. Now we witness areas all over the world that, for untold centuries, have been dry ground for the gospel seed but have, in the past few years, produced fruit to the glory of God. This cannot be coincidental but must surely be a sign that, again, “then shall the end come.”
- “Let the weak say, I am strong” (Joel 3:10). Dictators in tiny Serbia and impoverished Iraq continue to manipulate the one great super-power left in the world. Evil men, they seem immovable while the United States threatens and maneuvers but is unable to effect their overthrow. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Russia is an historic ally of both Serbia and Iraq.
- “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money…abusive…without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash…having a form of godliness but denying its power” (II Tim. 3:1-5 NIV). We are inundated by an “entertainment” business that is like an endless aerosol can spewing out violence, arrogance and immorality. Its devastating impact on society has been vividly evident in the reaction to the licentious conduct of the president of the United States. As the immoral behavior by one regularly invoking the blessing of God has not dented his popularity, we must conclude he represents a populace which has a form of godliness but denies its application to daily life.
- “Upon the earth distress of nations with perplexity…Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming…” (Luke 21:25-27). In a rapidly changing world troubled by terrorists having access to lethal germs, gases and nuclear weapons, these words have been true for a number of years. But this year a very great unknown will be receiving increasing attention as January 1, 2000, approaches: the Y2K problem. When writing computer programs in the 60’s, we never gave a thought to allocating only a two-digit field for the year portion of the date. That was the common practice in the 60’s, 70’s and probably early 80’s. Programmers would feel certain their work would not be running when 1999 turned into year 2000. But many of those programs are still running, some of them controlling vital links of transportation and communication. Billions of dollars have been spent trying to correct the situation but there is still a vast area of doubt as to what disaster may occur as the seventh millennium begins – if the Lord has not returned. As the year proceeds, there will be increasing perplexity about a problem that has never occurred before.
Signs that say “Not yet”
- “In the latter years thou shalt come into the land…thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, and that dwell safely…having neither bars nor gates” (Ezk. 38:8,11). Even if the current peace process is consummated between Israel and the Palestinians, which is highly unlikely, Israel will no doubt remain at a state of high military alert.
- Ezekiel continues describing Israel “in the latter years:” “…the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land” (Ezk. 38:12). In Judges 9:37, “the midst” of the land is the central mountain portion now part of the West Bank area which is gradually being turned over to Palestinian control. In 1967, we rejoiced to see that portion fall into Israeli hands, but now the process is moving away from what scripture describes as the latter-day condition.
There is great danger in feeling, because all is not in place, Christ won’t come this year. We know that our Lord will take some time in resurrection, gathering the living responsible, declaring his judgment and preparing his redeemed for their future work. While we don’t know how long these events will take, it is possible circumstances in Israel will change during that interim, if they do not do so in the coming months.
Are we ready?
As a community, several ecclesias have taken on new life in their preaching of the word. And, with God’s blessing, we may have greater unity among like-minded brethren on this continent than has been the case in 100 years. Great effort is being expended in this direction with the support of many prayers.
During the past year, the North American ecclesias have not experienced rapid growth but there continues a steady increase of about 1% per year. As has been noted in the magazine throughout 1998, there has been marked progress in the worldwide community both toward unity of brethren and in growth by many baptisms.
Are we personally ready? We need the warning or it would not be given:
The end of the sixth millennium! What a time to be alive with a knowledge of the Truth. The Gentile times are over; a new age is being born; may we each have a full part of the glories of the time to come. Amen.