6. The present Distress of Nations.
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in
the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with
perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them with fear,
and for looking after those things which are coming to pass on the earth: for
the powers of heaven shall be shaken" (Luke 21:25,26). As we have already
remarked more than once, prophecy invariably has a double fulfillment at
least, and so we believe it is with the one just quoted. Directly, it has
reference to conditions that will prevail during the Great Tribulation which
immediately precedes the return of the Lord to the earth itself, but there is
much to be said in favor of giving this prediction a present-day application.
It agrees exactly with the conditions which now exist. Mark five of the
characteristics here enumerated: -
First, "Distress of nations." How well
these words describe the well-nigh universal groaning and anguish of mankind!
"Distress" is now no longer confined to any one people but is international and
earth-wide in its reach. The "distress" and suffering caused by the exorbitant
cost of living when it is becoming more and more difficult to secure even the
bare necessaries of life. The "distress" occasioned by increasing taxation and
the accumulation of national debts which must prove intolerable burdens for
future generations to bear. The "distress" caused by shortage of fuel and
food-stuffs so that one half of the world is living upon short rations. The
"distress" of bereavement which is now in millions of homes which mourn
the loss of loved ones slain in battle.
Second, "with perplexity." Statesmen
unable to discover any way out of present difficulties. Men of Solomonic
astuteness at their wits' end, fearful of what they see approaching and
powerless to hinder and prevent it. Problems between capital and labor
becoming more acute and insoluble. Situations arising which the wisest of our
statesmen, despite all our boasted enlightenment and progress, are unable to
cope with successfully. "Perplexity" by reason of political corruption,
economic agitations, and revolutionary troubles.
Third, "the sea and the waves roaring."
In Scripture, the sea is used to figure the peoples of the earth which,
away from God, know no rest. Like the sea, the masses today are in a seething
turmoil. Everywhere there is fermentation and dissatisfaction. When were
human politics so confused, so contradictory, so threatening as they are now?
When was law so utterly impotent to restrain the violent passions of men?
Every day brings new indications of disquietude and convulsion. Every
government on earth is being shaken to its very foundations. Mark the
political changes which almost weekly take place in the great world powers.
The time for listless indifference is gone. No longer may we quietly fold our
hands and take our ease. There is among the nations a spirit of restlessness,
insubordination, anarchy; a consuming desire to overthrow every established
system which has made for law and order; a spirit and desire which is too
deeply rooted, too furious, too general, to be long withstood. It is something
more than a passing tumult or the frenzy of an hour. Every day it is gathering
strength and ere long it will burst every bound that legislation can devise.
The waves of human passion are rising higher, and higher and threaten to swamp
the landmarks of the ancients and take possession of the whole earth.
Fourth, "Men's hearts failing them with fear,
and for looking for those things which are coming on the earth." We live
in a day of unprecedented agitation and unparalleled tribulation. Conditions
on earth have now reached such a pass that no human skill an steer clear of the
mighty maelstrom which is rapidly drawing all nations within its awful whirl.
Human society is becoming panic-stricken. Heart failure both physically and
morally is seizing thousands of victims. Little wonder that suicides are
increasing at such an alarming rate. Men's hearts are "failing them." And
well they may. Confidence between man and man has disappeared. Friendships
have become barren formalities, little more than selfish conveniences. Human
compassion is no more. Conscience is dead, and men are giving up in
hopeless despair as they discern still worse evils presaged by present-day
conditions. Feverish eyes are moving to and fro in dread expectation of the
approaching total collapse of civilization.
Fifth, "the powers of heaven shall be shaken."
In Scripture the powers of nature are frequently used symbolically.
"Mountains" figure "Kingdoms" (Dan. 2:35; Jer. 51:25); "waters" represent
"peoples" (Rev 17:11); and the sun, moon, and stars, typify human governments
(Rev. 12:1). In the Great Tribulation the physical "powers of heaven will be
literally "shaken," but we take it that the present-day application of
our text is to be regarded symbolically, having reference to human
governments. And when were the political heavens so "shaken" as they are
today? Note the development of the "Young Turk" Party in Turkey. Mark the
growing popularity of a revolutionary Socialism. Witness the revolution in
Portugal, and the yet more recent revolutions in Mexico, China and Russia.
Ancient dynasties are being overthrown; thrones are tottering; kingdoms are
being broken up. The very cement by which human society has been welded
together is corroded so that Civilization is now like walls without mortar -
ready to fall to pieces.
What is the message voiced by these universal
conditions? What do they say to the children of God? The answer to these
questions is found in the same passage where these things are described - "And
when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift
up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28). Let us
next consider -