Evidences of Christ’s Return
The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.— Zechariah 4:9, 10
When Zerubbabel began to rebuild the Temple of the Lord after the Babylonian captivity, the foundations seemed as nothing. Old timers, remembering the glory of Solomon’s Temple, scoffed at it.
“Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? . . . The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.—Haggai 2:3, 9
So it is with all of God’s works. They start from small beginnings. Looking at the beginning of a work of God, one cannot appreciate how grand may be the final outcome.
Consider the confrontation between Elijah and the priests of Baal in their prayers for rain to return to Israel, ending the drought and famine. When Elijah sent his servant to look for rain, he saw only a small cloud, the size of a man’s hand.
“And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.”—1 Kings 18:43, 44
The Second Presence of Christ
Nowhere is this phenomenon of small beginnings almost going unnoticed more pronounced than in perceiving the second presence of our Lord. Note the words of the Apostle Peter: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3,4).
Two of the most prominent signs of the return of Jesus are given in Dan. 12:4, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”
The two signs—the increase of knowledge and many running to and fro—are given as signs of the time of the end and not specifically of the presence. But as we trace them we will see that while they have a small beginning between 1799 (the beginning of the time of the end) and 1874, they accelerate sharply after the latter date.
Dr. Wernher von Braun, the famous space scientist, diagrammed the explosion of knowledge in our day. Giving the accumulated knowledge of man from creation to 1750 a quantity of one, it had doubled by 1900, doubling again in the half century to 1950, again by 1960 and once again by 1968. Graphing it, one sees an exponential curve.
The state librarian for the state of Connecticut, writing in 1965, estimated that authentic new information was being produced at a rate of 5,000 pages per minute.
Two Causes Of The Knowledge Explosion
There are two basic causes of this rapid increase of knowledge, two small beginnings of the signs that demonstrate our Lord’s return.
- The Availability of Books
- The Ability to Read
Originally books were handwritten on scrolls and thus prohibitively expensive. Even after the invention of the printing press, the laborious procedure of handset type and the limited press runs made the cost of books beyond the financial means of the average person.
The spread of the free library system provided the breakthrough in making books available. The first free library was established in 1833, with the first country to pass a Free Library Law being Great Britain in 1850. However the main advance was the establishment of the American Librarian Association by Dewey in 1876.
However, having books available is of little value if you cannot read them. For centuries education was too expensive for the average man to afford, and only a minority even acquired a secondary education. The great change in education was the introduction of compulsory school laws.
The first state to pass such a law was Massachusetts, in 1852. England again led the way as far as national laws, passing their compulsory school law in 1876, with the United States following in 1892.
Running To And Fro
Today we look at the rapidity of air transportation as a sign of running to and fro, but the real instrument of mass travel remains the automobile. The first car, the horseless carriage, was invented by George Selden in 1877.
However the concept of running to and fro is not limited to personal travel. Today we use the fax machine and electronic mail to rapidly communicate one with another. There are three inventions which have made the difference in the communication revolution:
- The telephone, invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876;
- The telegraph by Samuel Morse in 1835
- Wireless telegraphy, invented by Marconi in 1896.
Perhaps the technological advances of the era of 1874 are best summed up in these words of Dr. Robert McMasters of Ohio State University, “The decade of 1870-1880 produced more fundamental scientific concepts than any other decade in the history of scientific thought.”
Another sign of the Lord’s return is the regathering of the Jew to its ancient homeland. One prophetic picture which connects this event with the return of the Lord is found in the Lord’s great prophecy of his return in Matt. 24:32: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” The identification of Israel with the fig tree is made for us in Jeremiah 24:1-9.
Perhaps even more specific is Acts 3:19-21, when viewed in the light of context. Throughout the third chapter of Acts Peter refers to his audience as representative of the Jewish nation. It was the time of Israel’s ignorance that God winked at. It was Israel’s promised Messiah to whom they were to turn. With this background, note the effect of verses 19 through 21: “Repent ye [Jews} therefore, and be converted, that your [Jewish] sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of [your—Israel’s] restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
After nearly 2000 years of being deprived of the privilege of owning property in their ancient homeland, it was as a result of the Berlin Congress of Nations in 1878, that Israelis were permitted to buy land in Palestine. Immediately, that same year, a group of Russian Jews settled the first Jewish colony in the Holy Land, Petach Tikvah, the “Door of Hope.”
This return of Israel was to be accompanied by a time of trouble: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy 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 thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.”
Since Daniel’s people were the Israelites, it is seen that this prophecy relates to a time of trouble which would be instrumental in the deliverance of Israel.
From the time of the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine in the days of Bar Kokhba, 135 A.D., no world turmoil benefitted Israel until the Turko-Russian War of 1876-1878. It was this war that ended in the Berlin Congress of Nations referenced above, permitting Jewish ownership of land in Palestine.
World War I also benefitted Israel for it was the contribution to the British war effort by the Jewish scientist, Chaim Weizman, which resulted in the famous Balfour Declaration in 1917, the legal document which formed the basis for Israel’s claim to legitimacy as a nation in Palestine.
Even World War II, with the horrible atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust, benefitted Israel by creating the climate of world-wide sympathy necessary for the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948.
Having looked at these three basic signs of our Lord’s return, let us proceed to note other signs where the small beginnings also coincided in the time framework of the decade of 1870-1880.
Exposing The Hidden Things Of Darkness
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”—1 Cor. 4:5
From a very natural standpoint, the exposure of things in darkness is light. Thomas A. Edison invented the electric light bulb in 1879. Clerk Maxwell’s Electromagnetic Formula became the basis for the invention in the 1870’s of the Cathode Ray by William Crooke and the X-Ray by Roentgen in 1895. Later the laser beam was to be based on the same theoretical concept.
More important, from a spiritual standpoint, is the greatest hidden thing of darkness of all times—the original lie by Satan that “thou shalt not surely die”—the doctrine of the immortal soul.
Thomas Froom in his Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers notes that Christendom began rejecting the doctrine of the immortal soul from 1878 onward. It was in that year that, in the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury formed The Conditional Immortality Society. It was this Society, working underground, that resulted in 1950 with the Church of Canada being the first major denomination to formally renounce their belief in an inherent immortal soul.
Corruption in the Roman Catholic Church was exposed in the same time period when, in 1886, a former Catholic priest, Father Chiniquy, published his book Fifty Years in the Church of Rome.
Political exposes came shortly thereafter with such developments as the formulation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI] in 1909 and the increasing use of Congressional Investigation committees.
“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. . . . The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.”—Matthew 13:30, 39
“And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.”—Revelation 14:14
The harvest was to be in the end of the world or age, a term that is connected in Matt. 24:3 with the second presence of Christ. This is further confirmed in the Revelation text because the harvester, the one with the sickle, is described as being the Son of man.
The Matthew 24 prophecy of his presence concludes with a final related sign, the rising up of “a wise and faithful servant” to feed the household “meat in due season.” This servant, or assistant harvester, we believe to be Charles Taze Russell. Now note the testimony of Matt. 24:46, “Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”
Our Lord Jesus was deemed to be especially doing his Father’s work from the time of his baptism. It is interesting to note that the baptism—the beginning of the spiritual work—of Brother Russell was in 1874. In 1879 he formed a separated condition—separate from mainline Christianity—for the harvested wheat to meet and study the Lord’s word.
The Gospel Preached
“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.”—Matthew 24:14
Although there was a great spread of the gospel in the widespread distribution of Bibles by the Bible Societies that formed around 1803-1805, the greatest spurt in this endeavor was the establishment of translation groups in the decade of the 1870’s. By 1870 the Bible was available in 37 languages. Today it is found in 1431 languages and dialects—all from that small beginning around 1870.
The Reversal Of Sin
Six thousand years of sin and evil came to an end in 1874, introducing the “times of restitution.” Thus we should see some evidence of the reversal of the downward trend toward death about this time. Symbolically, sin is typified by leprosy in the Bible. Today we call leprosy “Hansen’s disease” because the leprosy virus was isolated by Dr. Armauer Hansen in Sweden in 1874.
Of greater interest is a note from the field of actuarial science. That is the science that deals with the life expectancy of man. Each year they plot the life expectancy of man, forming over time a sort of death curve. The bottom of this curve, when man’s life expectancy ceases being less and less each year, but begins lengthening, is in 1874.
The Pyramid Top Stone
The Great Pyramid in Egypt holds many important lessons. Among these is the fact that the top stone is a perfect pyramid in itself, picturing Jesus Christ. However the pyramid is without a top stone and has been for millennia. Yet, today, there is a sort of top stone on the pyramid—three wooden poles sitting on the apex of the pyramid. These indicate what the heighth of the pyramid would have been had there been a top stone. They are sort of an invisible top stone. It is worthy of note that they were placed there in commemoration of the International Geophysical year of 1874, the very year that our Lord returned invisibly to earth’s atmosphere.
Laodicea—”Justice For The People”
The final period of the church in Revelation 3:14-22 is called Laodicea—meaning “justice for the people.” This, along with the picture of jubilee, leads us to expect that the Lord’s return would be marked by a clamor for rights and justice.
Economically the vehicle used for claiming equal rights has been the trade unions. The first one was formed in 1825, with the first one in the United States dating to 1845 and in Europe to 1884.
Racial civil rights were particularly heralded forth as a result of the Civil War in the United States when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865.
Political rights were trumpeted by Karl Marx in his Communist Manifesto of 1847 and in his book Das Kapital in 1867. The First Communist International conference was convened in 1864.
Speaking of the development of his movement, note the following from the pen of Pastor C. T. Russell: “In one sense, perhaps, this began back about 1872. That was the time when Communism began to be broached afresh, when Socialism began to spread itself.” (R5566) He is here referring to the events of the Geneva Peace Conference which was held that year.
Space does not permit a review of all the time prophecies concerned with the second advent. These are covered thoroughly in “The Time of Harvest” chapter in Volume 3 ofStudies in the Scriptures. “We will quote just one sentence from this chapter to illustrate our point: “All the rays of prophecy converge upon this `Time of the End,’ the focal point of which is the `Harvest’—the time of our Lord’s presence and the establishment of his long promised kingdom.” (p. 130)
Blessed Are Your Eyes
Yes, there were few great changes in earth’s society in the time around 1874, there were only “small things.” But today we can see what tremendous changes have been wrought through these “small beginnings.” Therefore we do well to take heed to our opening text, “Despise not the day of small things.”
In closing, note the principle in the Lord’s remarks to Thomas when he appeared to him after his resurrection, showing him the holes in his hands and in his side: “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).