The topic of our study is "the Crisis of the Ages". It involves the destiny of every person on the face of this earth. According to what the Chinese call the "Common Era", we live in the year 1998. Many people are speculating as to what is going to happen in the year 2000. The present system of counting years uses the birth of Christ as the reference point. Most people speak of B.C. and A.D. B.C. means "Before Christ," and A.D. refers to "after". As this method began when people lacked accurate historical data; they put the birth of Christ four years later than the actual year of His birth. We now know He was born in the fall of 5 B.C. So if we should count from the actual year of Jesus' birth, we are today already in the third millennium!
1) Then is it proper for us to say that the starting point of our "Common Era" is the "crisis" of the ages?
Answer: Yes, it can be called the second crisis of the ages. The first one was the universal flood which destroyed all living creatures on the land, except those preserved in Noah's ark. The birth of Christ was the next crisis, marking Christ's incarnation, when "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14). The Creator of heaven and earth came to earth veiled in human flesh. After living among men for 33 years, He was rejected by His own chosen people the Jews, who crucified Him. After He died and was buried, He lived again the third day, appeared to many, and after 40 days rose to heaven in the sight of many. Since then Christ's gospel of salvation has spread to all parts of the world.
2) So the flood in Noah's time was the first crisis; Christ's birth & death was the second; will there be a third crisis?
Answer: Yes, the third crisis will exceed the first two in intensity. The flood worked a great physical change on our planet. Jesus' life, death and resurrection caused a great spiritual change. The third crisis will bring both a physical and a spiritual change that will be breath-taking! Of the physical change, Peter wrote, "By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which now exist are kept in store by the same word, reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. . . in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat;; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?" (2 Pet. 3:5-11)
"Holy conduct and godliness" points to the spiritual change. The new world to appear after the fire will have only holy and godly people. For all unholy and ungodly people will be exterminated. God will proclaim, "Behold, I make all things new! . . . there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain." (Rev. 21:5,4) "No more pain" means that there will not be sinners suffering endless pain in God's universe restored to original perfection..
3) It seems that the first crisis did not solve the problem of sin, but the second and third ones will basically solve it.
Answer: You are right. Enoch walked with God, so he was taken to heaven. In him the sin problem was solved. He trusted in Christ to walk with God daily. But the masses of the people rebelled against God. Before the flood, God used Enoch to warn the world of Christ's second advent. Jude 14 reads: "Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied . . . saying, 'Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." God told Noah to build an ark to preserve the human species and other living creatures from extinction. But it was, after all, a physical preservation. Though Noah walked with God, his descendants failed to do so, and Genesis records that they soon forgot God. Crime again spread through the world.
4) Does it mean that God failed in His first attempt to make a new world, and will succeed the second time?
Answer: No. The three crises mark three stages in God's plan to restore His rule in a revolted world. This plan is presented in Eph. 3:9-11, which calls it "the mystery", "which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." The Bible teaches that Christ is the head of the church, which is His body. (See 1 Cor. 12:27) The holy line of loyal souls since antiquity comprise the Church universal, which is God's fortress of safety in a revolted world. It is our privilege to fight on God's side in the battle between Christ and Satan, which will reach another climax at Christ's second advent.
5) Did Christ Himself promise that He would return to this earth?
Answer: Yes, in John 14:1-3 He said, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also."
6) We are now in the third millennium, and Christ has not yet come. Can we know the exact time of His coming?
Answer: Christ gave certain signs that would appear before He comes, saying, "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many, . .you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, . . For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences and earthquakes in various places, . .And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 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. . Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only." (Matt. 24:4-14, 35,36)
7) Did Daniel also foretell Christ's second advent? Are there other such prophecies in the Old Testament?
Answer: Yes, in Daniel 2:1-44 is a prophecy of Christ's future kingdom, which we will reserve for a later talk.
The patriarch Job spoke of Christ's second advent in these words: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth." (Job 19:25) In Isa. 2:10-21 the prophet Isaiah said, "Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall come upon everything proud and lofty, upon everything lifted up---and it shall be brought low---. . . They shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made, each for himself to worship, to the moles and bats, to go into the clefts of the rocks and into the crags of the rugged rocks, from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily."
8) What is said in the Bible of the manner of Christ's second coming and the changes that will then take place?
Answer: Matthew 24:23-27says, "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. . . .Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out, or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. . . 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. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. "
Paul wrote, "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed---in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruptible, and this mortal must put on immortality. . . then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.'" (I Cor.15:50-54) It's Enoch's life reenacted!
9) Why does the Bible say that "all the tribes of the earth will mourn" and men will flee into caves and holes?
Answer: Because the majority have not paid attention to the warnings of the second coming of Christ. When the event actually happens, they will be taken by surprise, realize they are lost and have no courage to stand before Christ.
Rev. 1:7 says, "Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, and they also who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him." "Every eye" means that every living person on the earth will witness the second coming of Christ. That is why He forewarns us not to be deceived by reports that He has arrived in some desert place or can be seen in a seance chamber. It will be as widely visible as a flash of lightning in the sky. A passage in Rev. 6:15-17 repeats the words of Isaiah: "The kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'"
10) But all who will be prepared to meet Christ, will not mourn, but will be ready to be translated like Enoch.
Answer: You are right. Isa. 25:9 says, "It will be said in that day, 'Behold, this is our God, We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
11) Please explain how this fits into God's plan of demonstrating His wisdom to the principalities and powers.
Answer: God's plan goes through three stages to reveal His wisdom in dealing with sin. God is love, and His law is a law of love. But when man sinned, Satan pointed to him as proof that God's law is faulty, and cannot be obeyed. For the man God made does not keep God's law. Thus Satan justifies his rebellion. He had said to Eve, "You will not surely die," meaning that God's law can be violated with impunity, and that He is selfish and wants to keep men from being as wise as He. So God had to vindicate His law, demonstrate His love, and prove Satan false. Man must be won by God's love, choose to obey Him and trust in Christ for grace to defeat Satan. Man must be given another chance to overcome where he first fell. Christ has opened the way for us to overcome as He overcame. He says, "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."(Rev. 3:21)
12) Please list the three stages of God's battle with sin. How was God's plan of salvation implemented?
Answer: All three stages exalt the truth of justification by faith. The first stage climaxed in the flood: "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." (Heb. 11:7)
The second stage climaxed in Christ, who in the wilderness of temptation repelled Satan's attacks with the "sword of the Spirit", which is the word of God. To Satan's every suggestion He replied, "It is written". He "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Heb. 4:15) Christ overcame by living faith in every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God; His victory is ours as we follow in His steps. This second stage climaxed in Christ's victory on the cross.
The third stage is to realize Christ's victory in His body the Church. As Satan denied that Job's loyalty to God was unselfish, so he denied that Christ's victory could redeem Adam's failure, arguing that Christ is the Son of God born of a virgin; Enoch, Noah and Elijah were all exceptional, not typical men. Can God produce a typical church of overcomers?
Certainly! "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Rom. 8:29) Commentator Ellen White has well said, "'When the fruit is brought forth, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest is come.' Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own," COL 69.
"Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. . . These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being first-fruits to God and the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God." (Rev. 14:1-5) Here again is the faith of Enoch walking with God! And all who live by faith in God's word will be translated from the earth without seeing death, as foretold in 1 Thess. 4:16,17:
"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.." This envisages thousands of Enochs!
It will be the end of the battle between Christ and Satan, now going on in the hearts of men for 6000 years. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. And being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled." (2 Cor. 10:3-6) Obedience is still the bottom line since that day in Eden.
13) You have presented many fresh thoughts, making me to think of many more questions to ask on this subject.
Answer: Very well, next time we will continue this study, and also find out what will happen after Jesus comes. In the meantime we invite all our friends to join us again and decide now to be ready to meet the Lord when He comes. 1 Thess. 5:2-6 says, "You . . . know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day shall overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober." Jesus says to us, "Watch therefore, and
pray always that you may be counted worthy." (Luke 21:36)