Eschatology and Human History – Part 2
3.2 Bible Verses Concerning the Signs of the Last Days
Many Christians believe that in the Last Days natural calamities and radical changes beyond the imagination of modern men will take place, as is literally written in the Bible. However, if they understood that human history is the history of God’s providence, which has been restoring the world to the original state intended by God at the Creation, then they would know that the signs of the Last Days prophesied in the Bible will not take place literally. Let us investigate what the prophecies concerning the Last Days actually symbolize.
It is written that God determined to destroy the earth in Noah’s time.39(Gen. 6:13)CEV|KJ|NI Noah’s time was the Last Days, yet the world was not destroyed. The earth is eternal, as the following verses indicate: “A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever;”40(Eccl. 1:4)CEV|KJ|NI “He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.”41(Ps. 78:69)CEV|KJ|NI The earth was created as the object partner of God. God, the subject partner, is eternal; likewise, earth, the object partner, should also be eternal. Almighty God would never be pleased with having created a world so fragile it could possibly perish because of Satan. What, then, is the meaning of the prophecies of the earth’s destruction in the Last Days? For instance:
The heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. –II Pet. 3:12-13CEV|KJ|NI
To destroy a nation is to overthrow its sovereignty, while to erect a new nation is to establish a new sovereignty. Likewise, the prophecies that heaven and earth will be destroyed mean that the tyranny of Satan will be overthrown. To create a new heaven and new earth means to restore heaven and earth to God’s sovereignty founded on Christ.
What is the meaning of the prophecy that “the heavens will be kindled and dissolved and the elements will melt with fire”42(II Pet. 3:12)CEV|KJ|NI in the Last Days? Malachi, prophesying of Jesus to come, spoke of a day burning with the fire of judgment.43(Mal. 4:1)CEV|KJ|NIJesus came into the world to cast this judgment, as he said, “For judgment I came into this world.”44(John 9:39)CEV|KJ|NI; (also John 5:22)CEV|KJ|NI Jesus also said, “I came to cast fire upon the earth.”45(Luke 12:49)CEV|KJ|NI “Fire” here represents the means of the judgment for which Jesus came into the world. Nevertheless, there is no record that in his time Jesus judged the world with literal fire. The verses referring to fire must be symbolic. It is written, “Is not my word like fire, says the Lord?”46(Jer. 23:29)CEV|KJ|NI Therefore, judgment by fire represents judgment by the Word of God.
Let us look for some biblical examples concerning judgment by the Word: “He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.”47(John 12:48)CEV|KJ|NI “The lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth,”48(II Thess. 2:8)CEV|KJ|NI that is, by his word. Moreover, “He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.”49(Isa. 11:4)CEV|KJ|NI “He who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”50(John 5:24)CEV|KJ|NI It follows that the judgment by fire which Jesus came to bring was the judgment by the Word.
What is the reason that Jesus judges by the Word? Human beings are created through the Word.51(John 1:3)CEV|KJ|NI God’s ideal of creation was that the first human ancestors fulfill the purpose of the Word by incarnating the Word. Yet they did not keep the Word of God and fell; thus, they failed to fulfill the purpose of the Word. Since then, God has tried to fulfill the purpose of the Word by recreating fallen human beings through the Word. This is the providence of restoration based on truth, the Word as revealed in the Scriptures. It is written, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”52(John 1:14)CEV|KJ|NI Jesus completely realized the Word. He will come again as the standard of the judgment by the Word and judge the extent to which humanity has fulfilled the purpose of the Word. Judgment in this context contributes to the attainment of the goal of restoration, which is the realization of the purpose of the Word. Hence, in the course of the providence, the Word must be set up as the standard through which judgment can be carried out. Jesus lamented, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”53(Luke 12:49)CEV|KJ|NI As the incarnation of the Word,54(John 1:14)CEV|KJ|NI he was grieved that the people of Israel did not receive the life-giving words which he proclaimed.
It is written in the Bible that in the Last Days the dead will rise from their graves:
We can understand the meaning of this prophecy by examining a similar event, when the dead rose from their tombs at the time of Jesus’ death:
The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. -Matt. 27:52-53CEV|KJ|NI
This verse does not mean that the decomposed bodies of the saints literally rose up from their graves.55(cf. Resurrection 2.3) If the physical bodies of the saints of the Old Testament Age had actually risen from their tombs and appeared before many people in Jerusalem, they would certainly have testified to the people about Jesus, since they already knew that he was the Messiah. After hearing such testimony, who among the inhabitants of Jerusalem would not have believed in the crucified Jesus? Additionally, if the saints really had risen from their tombs in the flesh, then surely their deeds would have been recorded in the Bible. However, we find no such records.
What does the Scripture mean when it says that the bodies of the saints rose from their tombs? This record was made by people who could perceive the spirits of the past saints being resurrected spiritually and appearing on the earth.56(cf. Resurrection 2.3) This is much like Moses and Elijah who, as spirits, briefly appeared before Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.57(Matt. 17:3)CEV|KJ|NI What does “the tomb” symbolize? The realm of form spirits, the region of the spirit world where the spirits of the Old Testament saints were abiding, appears to be a dark place when viewed from Paradise, the realm of the spirit world opened up by Jesus. Hence, it is referred to as a tomb. The spirits of these saints had all lived in that lower region of the spirit world before they appeared to spiritually-attuned believers on the earth.
The “air” mentioned in this verse does not refer to the sky over our heads. In the Bible, “earth” is often a symbol for the fallen world under the sway of evil sovereignty, while “Heaven” is often a symbol for the sinless world of good sovereignty. The omnipresent God certainly dwells everywhere on the earth, yet we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.”58(Matt. 6:9)CEV|KJ|NI Even though Jesus was born on the earth, he is referred to as “he who descended from Heaven, the Son of man.”59(John 3:13)CEV|KJ|NI Meeting the Lord in the air means that the saints will receive the Lord in the world of good sovereignty when Christ comes again and restores the Kingdom of Heaven on earth by defeating the kingdom of Satan.
It is written that Joseph, the eleventh of the twelve sons of Jacob, had a dream:
Then he dreamed another dream, and told it to his brothers, and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream; and behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” –Gen. 37:9-10CEV|KJ|NI
When Joseph later became the prime minister of Egypt, his parents and brothers bowed down before him, as the dream had foretold. In his dream, the sun and moon symbolized the parents, while the stars symbolized their children. As will be explained, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the True Parents who came to give rebirth to humanity in place of Adam and Eve.61(cf. Christology 4) Therefore, in this prophecy from Matthew, the sun and moon represent Jesus and the Holy Spirit, while the stars represent the faithful believers who are their children. Elsewhere, Jesus is likened to the true light because he came as the incarnation of the Word and shone forth the light of truth.62(John 1:9, 14)CEV|KJ|NI Here, the sunlight means the light of the words of Jesus, and the moonlight means the light of the Holy Spirit, who came as the Spirit of truth.63(John 16:13)CEV|KJ|NI
For the sun to be darkened and the moon to lose its light means that the New Testament Word given by Jesus and the Holy Spirit will lose its luster. How can the Word as revealed in the New Testament possibly lose its light? The Old Testament Word was eclipsed when Jesus and the Holy Spirit came and gave us the New Testament Word, which fulfilled the Old Testament Word.64(II Cor. 3:7-11)CEV|KJ|NILikewise, when Christ returns and gives the new truth65(cf. Eschatology 5.1)in order to fulfill the New Testament Word and build a new heaven and new earth,66(Rev. 21:1)CEV|KJ|NI the Word which he gave at his first coming will lose its light. It is said that the Word will lose its light because, with the coming of a new era, the period of the mission of the old truth will have lapsed.
The prophecy that the stars will fall from heaven signifies that in the Last Days many faithful Christian believers will make a misstep and fall from God’s grace. At the time of Jesus, the leaders of the Jewish people were all yearning for the coming of the Messiah, but they met their downfall when they did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah and opposed him. Likewise, Christians who have been anxiously awaiting the return of Jesus are likely to make the same misjudgment and fall when he actually returns.67(cf. Second Advent 2.2)
Jesus asked, “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”68(Luke 18:8)CEV|KJ|NIOn another occasion he said he would declare to devout believers, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.”69(Matt. 7:23)CEV|KJ|NIJesus gave these warnings to the Christians of the Last Days because he foresaw that they would be likely to disbelieve and trespass against him at his Second Advent.
The Last Days and the Present Days
When Jesus was speaking to Peter of his fate, Peter asked him about John’s future. Jesus replied, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”70(John 21:22)CEV|KJ|NI Upon hearing this, the disciples thought Jesus would return during John’s lifetime. Moreover, Jesus said to his disciples, “you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes”71(Matt. 10:23)CEV|KJ|NI and “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”72(Matt. 16:28)CEV|KJ|NI Based on these sayings, the disciples and many Christians since have believed that Jesus would return during their lifetime. They have been constantly haunted by a sense of urgency that the Last Days are at hand. This is because they fail to grasp the fundamental meaning of the Last Days.
We can deduce that today is in fact the Last Days by examining the various circumstances of the present age. We can recognize in these circumstances the restoration of the three great blessings, which God has purposed in His providence of restoration. As Jesus said:
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. –Matt. 24:32-33CEV|KJ|NI
The first blessing God gave to Adam and Eve was perfection of individual character.73(cf. Creation 3.2) In the modern world, there are various phenomena which indicate that God’s providence to restore fallen people to their original state as perfected individuals is near its zenith.
First, we can observe that the spirituality of fallen people is being restored. We have already explained that when a person reaches perfection, he becomes completely one with God in heart and is able to build true relationships with others. Adam and Eve, though not quite perfect, were able to converse with God. When they fell from this state, they caused their descendants also to sink into ignorance of and insensibility to God. Gradually, the spirituality of fallen people has been rehabilitated as they enjoy the merit of the age in the providence of restoration. In the Last Days, therefore, many faithful believers will acquire the ability to communicate with God, as was prophesied in the Bible:
In the last days . . . I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. –Acts 2:17CEV|KJ|NI
As we witness a profusion of spiritual phenomena taking place all around us, we can discern that the present era is the Last Days. We are entering an era when we can reach individual perfection and restore the first blessing of God.
A second sign that the first blessing is being restored in the present era can be seen in the historical trend toward the recovery of the freedom of the original mind. Due to the Fall, our original mind was shackled under the yoke of Satan, and we lost the freedom to come before God. In the present era, as people struggle for freedom at the cost of their lives, the zeal to gain true freedom has reached its height. This is an indication that we are now entering a new era in which we can attain individual perfection, long denied by Satan, and freely go before God.
A third sign of the renewal of the first blessing is the restoration of true human value. From the horizontal perspective, every person possesses equal value, but that does not do justice to his true worth. From the vertical perspective of Heaven, each individual possesses the loftiest cosmic value.74(Christology 1) Human beings lost their original value because of the Fall. In the present era, as democratic ideals have flourished, people have been promoting the emancipation of slaves, the freedom of oppressed racial minorities, and the independence of small and weak nations. They are advocating human rights and equality between the sexes and among all peoples. More than ever before, people are zealously uplifting the value of the individual toward its original value. This demonstrates that we have arrived at the threshold of the Last Days, when fallen people can restore the first blessing of God.
A fourth sign that the first blessing is being renewed in the present age is the restoration of original, true love in fallen people. The world which has realized the ideal of God will be in the image of a perfected individual. Every person in that world is united with God vertically, and this forms the basis upon which they can naturally live in harmony with each other horizontally. Solidarity and empathy are attained only when people join together in the love of God. Due to the Fall, the vertical bond of love between God and people was broken, and this in turn caused the horizontal love among them to be severed. As a result, human history became one of perpetual conflict. In the present era, however, the philosophy of universal love has become widespread, and people are increasingly seeking for true, original love. This is more evidence that the present time is the eve of the Last Days, when we can restore God’s first blessing and reach perfection of individual character grounded in the love of God.
God’s second blessing was for Adam and Eve to attain True Parenthood and bear and raise good children, forming a family, society and world where goodness reigns. However, Adam and Eve fell and became evil parents multiplying evil children; their descendants (all humanity) formed a world oppressed by evil. Ever since, God has been conducting a twofold providence, internal and external, to restore the sovereignty of goodness.
God has founded religions and worked through them to elevate people’s spirituality by internally purifying people of satanic elements. At the same time, God has been cutting off Satan’s influence externally through conflicts and wars. By separating Satan both internally and externally, the providence of restoration has been raising up good children who will one day be able to serve Christ when he comes as the True Parent. In this way, human history has been paving the way for the restoration of God’s second blessing. Accordingly, we can deduce that the present era is the Last Days by examining the signs of the internal and external restoration of God’s sovereignty. These are manifested as trends in the history of the development of cultural spheres and in the history of the rise and fall of nations, both of which are rooted in religion.
First, let us investigate how the history of the development of cultural spheres has progressed to the point when, in the present era, we have arrived at the threshold of the Last Days. God sends prophets and saints to fallen humanity to found religions. He works to develop them through the original minds of those who seek the good. In this way, God builds up cultural spheres based upon religions. Although many cultural spheres have emerged in the course of history, with the passage of time most of them either merged with or were absorbed by others. In the present age, we see a clear trend toward the formation of one global cultural sphere based on Christian ideals. As this trend progresses, all races and peoples are increasingly coming to stand side by side as brothers and sisters under the love and guidance of Jesus Christ, thereby restoring the second blessing of God.
The main distinction between Christianity and other religions is that its purpose is to receive and honor the True Parents of humanity, through whom all people can be reborn as good children. In this way, Christianity should renew the world as the one global family which God purposed from the time of creation. This makes Christianity the central religion with the mission to fulfill the goal of the providence of restoration. In the present era, the world has been coalescing into one cultural sphere based on Christian ideals. As the world has been greatly influenced by the teachings of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who are the True Parents of humankind,75(cf. Christology 4) the way has been opened for all people to become godly children. This trend is evidence that God’s second blessing is being restored. Thus, we can conclude with certainty that the present age is the Last Days.
Next, let us investigate how the history of the rise and fall of nations has been progressing toward the goal of restoring the sovereignty of good, thereby leading us into the Last Days. It is an error brought about by ignorance of the fundamental providence of God to regard the cause of struggles and wars as mere conflicts of interests and contests between ideologies. Humankind has suffered through a sinful history ever since the first human ancestors fell under the subjugation of Satan. However, as long as God’s purpose of creation still stands, the purpose of this history must be to cut out ties with Satan and restore God’s kingdom. If there were no wars or divisions in this fallen world, then the sovereignty of evil would continue forever and the world would never be restored. Therefore, God has worked His providence to restore the heavenly sovereignty by degrees. He sends prophets and saints to the fallen world to found religions and raise the level of morality. He establishes governments with higher standards of goodness which come to oppose and destroy regimes with lower standards of goodness. To fulfill the providence of restoration, therefore, conflicts and wars are unavoidable.
To summarize some of these issues, many of which will be treated more thoroughly in Part II, human history has progressed through the providential course of restoration through indemnity. Although there have been times when evil seemed to prevail, in the end the relatively evil social and political forces declined and were absorbed by the more godly forces. The wars which have shaped the rise and fall of nations are thus unavoidable during the course of the providence to re-establish the reign of good.
For example, in the Bible God ordered the Israelites to destroy the seven tribes of Canaan. When Saul disobeyed Him, leaving some of the Amalekites alive with their cattle, God severely punished him.76(I Sam. 15:18-23)CEV|KJ|NI While on that occasion God commanded the Israelites to destroy the Gentiles, at another time, when the Israelites of the northern kingdom turned to evil, God delivered them into the hands of the Assyrians.77(II Kings 17:23)CEV|KJ|NIWe must understand that God’s only intention by these events was to obliterate the sovereignty of evil and restore the sovereignty of good. Therefore, fights between individuals within the same good sovereignty on the side of God are evil, because they can weaken and even cause the disintegration of the good sovereignty itself. On the other hand, wars conducted by a good sovereignty to destroy an evil sovereignty are good in that they further the fulfillment of the providence of restoration.
The history of conflicts among nations has served the purpose of cutting off Satan’s ties to humankind. History has progressed to the point where God’s side can now reclaim territories and wealth all over the world. The providence to reclaim people began from lone individuals called by God. God’s foundation progressively expanded to families, societies and nations, and today has reached the world level. The providence to separate Satan began with the clan society and continued through stages of political and social development: feudalism, monarchy and, today, democracy. At present, our world is divided into two: the democratic world, which seeks to create societies on God’s side, and the communist world, which has been establishing regimes on Satan’s side.
In other words, although fallen human history began under the sovereignty of Satan, God’s providence has brought about a progressive transformation of the hearts of people and has nurtured their original nature, which seeks goodness through religion, philosophy and ethics. This inner nurturing has inspired groups which seek a just rule to separate from the prevailing evil. This process of separation has culminated in the establishment of two opposing powers on the global level. These two sovereignties, with contrary purposes, can by no means peacefully coexist. As human history nears its consummation, they will surely arrive at the point of intersection, colliding internally in the realm of ideology. This inner conflict may spur them to fight external wars with military forces. At the conclusion of this conflict, Satan’s sovereignty will perish forever and Heaven’s sovereignty will be re-established as the one, eternal sovereignty of God. Today we are at this very point of intersection, when these two worlds are confronting each other in the final battle. This is yet more evidence that the present era is the Last Days.
The flow of human history, in which good and evil are gradually separated, may be compared to muddy water. When muddy water is flowing slowly, the mud sinks to the bottom while the clear water rises to the top, until eventually the mud and water are completely separated. Human history is similar: with the passage of time, the evil sovereignty slowly sinks to destruction while the good sovereignty gradually ascends on the path of prosperity. After these two sovereignties intersect near the end of history, the good sovereignty will remain as God’s eternal Kingdom, while the evil sovereignty will perish in eternal darkness.
The era when the paths of these good and evil sovereignties intersect is the Last Days. This is also the time when Adam and Eve’s fall from the top of the growth stage will be restored through indemnity. All people in this era will suffer through great ideological confusion, much as the first human ancestors at the point of their temptation were utterly confused as to whom they should obey and what should guide their actions.
During the course of the providence of restoration, there were several occurrences of the Last Days, when the good and evil sovereignties came to the point of intersection. The times of Noah and Jesus, as mentioned earlier, were also the Last Days. Hence, they too were times when the two sovereignties intersected. Yet because people failed to accomplish their portion of responsibility, God’s efforts to destroy the evil sovereignty were frustrated, and He had to begin once again the providence to separate good from evil. At the time of Jesus’ return, the two sovereignties will intersect once more. The course of the providence progresses in a spiral path, moving forward in pursuit of the purpose of creation while events periodically repeat themselves in a circular fashion. Consequently, history has repeated itself, producing parallel periods.78(cf. Periods 1)