The great clock of God with its minute hand is rapidly approaching the midnight hour. With overwhelming speed the inhabitants of the earth are arriving at their final destination. The prophetic timetable is announcing the end of the world with amazing accuracy. This means that soon Jesus Christ will return the second time to save His children and destroy the wicked.
However, before His second coming, God in His great love sends warnings so that people may prepare for this–the greatest event yet to come. One of these warnings is found in 1 Peter. 4:7: “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.”
A lone man traveling all night on a rocky mountainside became exhausted and came face to face with death. The road behind him was too dangerous to retrace in the darkness and before him was a large boulder which he did not dare attempt to scale.
The only thing left for him to do was to wait until morning. His place of retirement was a steep, dangerous slope. Just one careless move might prove his destruction. He knew that he would have to be vigilant or else he would slip and be hurled to his death in the valley below.
In this night of sin, the Christian finds himself in a situation similar to that of the lone traveler. He can’t go backwards but must patiently wait and be alert until daybreak. Awareness of his precarious position motivates him to WATCH so that the enemy may not destroy him in his sleep. The danger of being deceived should be very real to us. The devil has many ways and methods whereby he attempts to lead us astray.
Before me is a religious newspaper printed by one of the many Adventist splinter groups. It is filled with some incredible teachings. The paper uses the Spirit of Prophecy to invite the reader to accept “new light.” For instance, the exact day, month, and year are given when the judgment of the living is supposedly to begin, as well as the time of Jesus’ return. Doesn’t this deception contradict the explicit teaching of the Bible? Remember Christ’s prophecy. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. … Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” Matthew 24:36, 42. Because we do not know the exact time, God gives us the solemn warning to watch.
Excuses for not watching
There is a class of people of whom Christ spoke thus: “If that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him.” Matthew 24:48-50. “The evil servant says in his heart, ‘My lord delayeth his coming.’ He does not say that Christ will not come. He does not scoff at the idea of His second coming. But in his heart and by his actions and words he declares that the Lord’s coming is delayed. He banishes from the minds of others the conviction that the Lord is coming quickly. His influence leads men to presumptuous, careless delay. They are confirmed in their worldliness and stupor. Earthly passions, corrupt thoughts, take possession of the mind.” Desire of Ages, p. 635.
There are many Christians who have an intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures, and even profess to believe in the second coming of Christ, but do not know God intimately. Therefore, they love the world, and not Jesus as the Saviour. Perhaps they are even members of God’s church and are actively participating in the Sabbath School and other missionary endeavors. Despite the superficial involvement in the church activities, this worshipper may be saying, “Don’t come back too soon, Jesus. I’m enjoying this world. I still want to finish my education, get married and have some fun yet before I retire. Please, Lord, don’t interrupt my plans for the future. I don’t have the time to fully surrender to you. I have more important things to do right now than watch and pray. This is the attitude of the self-centered, sin-loving person.
Consider these all important words for our day: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 John 2:15-17. “. . . Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. “Upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth, upon all who make this world their home, the day of God will come as a snare.” Desire of Ages, p. 635.
What not to watch
One of the easiest things for us to do is to watch others and to forget to watch self.
As we look at others’ faults, weaknesses and their many character imperfections, we tend to compare ourselves with them and are very likely to lift ourselves up and become critical and judgmental. Here is an inspired statement on that subject: “Thus those who condemn or criticize others, proclaim themselves guilty, for they do the same things. In condemning others, they are passing sentence upon themselves, and God declares that this sentence is just. He accepts their own verdict against themselves.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 124.
What to watch
Since we are living on the borders of the heavenly Canaan, our responsibility today is to critically watch ourselves rather than our fellow believers in the church. We just cannot afford to be critical. Let us resolve to be more critical of ourselves and more tolerant of others. In the New International Version of the Bible we read, “Watch your life.” 1 Timothy 4:16. This means that our spiritual lives need to be examined in the light of the ten commandments. I’m sure you have already heard that we can take only our characters to heaven. If that is so, then we need to put special emphasis on character development or Christ likeness. In the book Early Writings, p. 71, we are pointed to a high goal: “I saw that none could share the ‘refreshing’ unless they obtain the victory over every besetment, over pride, selfishness, love of the world, and over every wrong word and action.”
This solemn thought prompts us to consider every aspect of our lives.
Without a doubt, we need to watch our words that we speak so freely.
If this were done, family and church squabbles would end, heartaches, sadness and misunderstanding would be things of the past. Let us watch, because “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21.
Another area where attention should be focused is our health. Man is eating and drinking to his own glory, thereby making his belly a god. His unsanctified appetite is idolized and worshipped every day. Frequently the worshippers go to such extents as to become gluttons. Gluttony is a perversion of a natural, God-given appetite or drive. When a normal hunger is extended greedily into abnormality so that it harms the body and dulls the mind, it becomes sin.
Have you ever lost control of your appetite, overeating even on nutritious food and then finding it hard to keep awake during the Sabbath service? Of course, gluttony is not only the sin of overeating. It can be the sin of drinking, of staying up too late, losing needed sleep in order to satisfy ambition or greed. Gluttony can also be indulged in by married couples who have not used self-restraint and temperance in their relations with each other.
Christians, especially Adventists who have a concern for their health but have a problem living up to the light, should watch and also pray for Divine help.
There are others, on the other hand, who can master their craving for food, but fail to watch their personal appearance. They are following the foolish, vain, and ridiculous fashions of the world. Perhaps their showy, self-centered attire is a “cover-up” for their emptiness and lack of peace.
Have you every looked at yourself in the mirror, and asked yourself: “”Would Jesus approve of my clothes, as I walk into church, go to the lake, go to work?” Remember, Jesus is watching us as the investigative judgment is in session. Besides this fact, He will soon appear in the clouds of heaven to clothe us in immortality. And before this spectacular event takes place, we are being warned by the signs of the times to get ready.
Every calamity, earthquake, war, misfortune, and crime committed knocks on the door of this doomed planet to tell us something.
During the first century, the Italian city of Pompeii was a thriving resort of the Roman Empire. It was located approximately 6 miles south of Mount Vesuvius and covered an area of some one hundred and sixty acres. This city of wealth, pleasure and immorality had a population of 20,000 people. On August 24, A.D. 79, life was going on as usual. Housewives prepared breakfast for their families–the bread was in the oven, eggs were on the stove, men were going to work, children played in the streets and the shops were open for business. On that day, no one noticed anything out of the ordinary about the 4000 foot mountain.
At one o’clock in the afternoon the city was shaken by a violent earthquake and then Mount Vesuvius erupted with the sound of a thunderclap. The first explosion spewed out of its crater lethal gas, ash and smoke that rose high into the sky. The people were terrified and thousands fled at once to the sea and kept going until they were out of danger. Unfortunately, there were some who disregarded the explosion and remained behind. Many delayed in leaving the doomed city. Some stayed to bury their valuables while others loaded their possessions onto small carts. As they wheeled their overloaded carts, the people merged toward the narrow city gates which created a terrible traffic jam. At that moment the angry mountain sent forth its deadly gases and volcanic ash over the city and the terrified people perished. They were mostly the wealthy who refused to abandon their precious homes and possessions hoping that the danger would pass after the first explosion. Of the 20,000 inhabitants of Pompeii, 16,000–four fifths of the entire population–perished under 30 feet of volcanic debris. Thus this thriving city of pleasure and commerce became a huge burial ground.
What lessons can we learn from this terrible tragedy? For one thing, our possessions should not hinder us as we travel to our place of refuge, the heavenly kingdom. We are not to hold on to overloaded carts at the expense of eternal salvation.
The story is told of a woman who would not separate herself from a piece of luggage while on board the sinking Titanic. As the luxury liner was about to go down, several appeals were made to her to jump into the remaining lifeboat, but she would have to leave her luggage behind. She refused the last invitation and perished in the icy waters of the Atlantic. She would rather die than give up her precious suitcase that contained money, gems, and other valuables. How tragic it is that to many people material things are more important than life itself, even eternal life. “He [Satan] will so arrange affairs as to hedge up their way, entangle them with earthly treasure, cause them to carry a heavy, wearisome burden, that their hearts may be overcharged with the cares of this life, and the day of trial come upon them as a thief.” Great Controversy, pp.625, 626.
Another lesson we can draw from the history of Pompeii is that after the first explosion of Vesuvius, there were people who delayed leaving the city. It was this delay that cost them their lives. They were victims of the paralysis of procrastination –a spiritual disease that affects a person’s attitude and better judgment.
The Bible cites several instances of people who procrastinated too long. For example, Paul’s witness to the Roman governor Felix: “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” Acts 24:25. Though deeply impressed, Felix abruptly ended the interview with those fateful words, “When I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”
Another similar case of the paralysis of procrastination is found in Acts, chapter 26. Paul there appealed to a Roman official named Agrippa about the truth whose reply was, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” But “almost” means to be lost. He also procrastinated, and there is no record that Felix or Agrippa ever turned to the Lord.
Though convicted, they ended up rejecting the offer of salvation.
The city of Pompeii is an example and a startling object lesson for those living in the last generation of earth’s history. Mount Vesuvius erupted when the people were totally unprepared for the catastrophe. The sudden and violent explosions came at a time when the people did not foresee any threat of danger from the volcano. For 16 years before the explosions, the inhabitants of the city witnessed Vesuvius puffing out its smoke and vapors. It was a constant sign and warning of danger. This is very similar to what will happen just before Jesus returns. The wicked will see the smoke warning through the signs of the times, but will ignore them. They will continue to transgress the Ten Commandments until the final explosion that will terminate all of civilization.
Jesus says to all the members of His church: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.” “Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” Mark 13:32, 33; Mathew 24:44.
The sudden and unexpected destruction that came to Pompeii gives us an idea of what it will be like at the end of the world. People will be carrying on life and business as usual. “Men are still eating and drinking, planting and building, marrying, and giving in marriage. Merchants are still buying and selling. Men are jostling one against another, contending for the highest place. Pleasure lovers are still crowding to theaters, horse races, gambling hells.” “ When the scorner, the rejecter of truth, has become presumptuous; when the routine of work in the various money-making lines is carried on without regard to principle; when the student is eagerly seeking knowledge of everything but his Bible, Christ comes as a thief.” The Desire of Ages, pp. 636, 635.
Before Jesus comes, the liquor shops, gambling casinos, theaters and night clubs will be very busy. In millions of homes, the radio and television sets will be tuned in to the usual programs of violence, immorality and foolishness. It is at the end of the time of trouble that the wicked will be interrupted in their selfish plans. There will appear from outer space a small black cloud, about half the size of a man’s hand. It will come from the direction of the constellation Orion. At that moment, the terrified people will be praying to the unstable mountains and rocks to “fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” Revelation 6:16. They will see a cloud of angels accompanying the conquering Jesus. They will seek shelter but it will be too late. In that hour there will be no opportunity to repent. It is the day of the Lord when just reward will be given to everyone.
Therefore, Jesus says to us, “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” Luke 21:36.