The Last Generation
by John N. Loughborough

Last Day Tokens, Chapter Four

Signs for the Last Generation
Parable of the Fig-Tree
Learning the Parable.

A SHORT time before our Savior’s death, His disciples asked Him the following very important question relative to the close of earth’s history: “What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world?”[1]


Not repudiating their question, Christ proceeded to give them a definite answer, rehearsing the predictions concerning events that would transpire, and finally giving signs by which, when fulfilled, it might be known that His coming is near; even saying that the very generation witnessing the signs - the last generation - is not to pass until He shall come.

The Savior goes over this prophetic ground three times, first giving what may be called a summary of events reaching down to the end. [2] None of these, however, does He call definite signs of His near coming, except the last one mentioned, - “This gospel of the kingdom (“glad tidings of the reign,” some translations render it) shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” [3]

In passing over the ground the first time, Christ told His disciples there would be wars, famines, pestilence, and earthquakes in divers places, and though these things were to come, they were not the signs of His near coming; for, said He, “The end is not yet.” [4] That famines, pestilence, etc., have been abundant, history fully shows. [5] While these were not the tokens of His immediate coming, they were things which would transpire. However, He does proceed to give what will be the state of things when the end is near. He says: “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” This prediction is in exact accord with that given by the apostle Paul respecting the last times: “In the last days perilous times shall come.” Paul enumerates some eighteen sins that will exist among that class who have a “form of godliness” and who are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”[6]

From verses fifteen to twenty-eight, our Savior goes over the ground the second time, down to His second coming, this time going back only to the destruction of Jerusalem. Having given the tokens of its overthrow, and instructions to His people regarding the course they should pursue when the ruin of the city should be threatened, He calls attention to the great tribulation which was to come upon God’s people.

The tribulation came in the persecutions of the “Dark Ages,” but was to be, and was, shortened, else none of the elect would have been left. This period of tribulation was from A. D. 538 to 1798. Although the persecutors retained the civil power, by virtue of which they had heretofore persecuted, until the year 1798, the rage of persecution was restrained by the governments’ granting toleration to all religions about 1773 and onward. Thus the days of persecution were shortened even before they expired, and while yet the persecutors retained the civil power.

Before closing this second line of prophecy, our Lord presented the fact that near the end “Lo here!” and “Lo there!” would arise, teaching of secret comings of Christ. That His followers be not deceived by that deception, He guards them with the great fact that His coming is an event that will be as visible to all as the lightning’s flash which shines in mid-heaven.

The third time our Savior reviews this line of prophetic events down to His coming, He goes back to the close of the tribulation, and gives the definite signs by which it may be known when He is “near, even at the doors.” In verse twenty-nine is found this record: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.”[7] Here are distinct signs. Of these He says, “When you shall see all these things, know that it [margin, “He”] is near, even at the doors.”[8]

Respecting the time when these definite signs should begin to be fulfilled, we read in Mark’s record of the same discourse, “Except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved,” and, “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened,” etc. [9] Comparing these two records of the discourse, it is seen that these definite signs would begin to receive their fulfillment “in those days,” and “immediately after the tribulation.” The days ended in 1798. The persecutions began to be checked about 1773, as previously stated; and the last act of public burning was in 1779. The first of these signs, then, would naturally be expected between the years 1779 and 1798. Now what are the facts? - The signs in the sun and moon, here mentioned, were both fulfilled in that memorable “dark day” of May 19, 1780. It was a darkness that continued for twelve hours - from 11 A. M. to 11 P. M. Although the moon had fulled the day before, those describing the scene of that night said that “if every luminous body had been struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete.”[10]

At the time of that dark day and night my grandfather lived in Trenton, New Jersey. I have heard him describe that night. He said that in a room where a large whale-oil lamp was burning, the light would not penetrate the darkness, and people on the opposite side of the room from the light could not avoid jostling against one another. He also said that around the lamp, for about eighteen inches each way it looked like a globe of blue. If you brought your book within the radius of that globe of light, you could read the print; but six inches from that, you could not see a letter. So it was indeed a darkness that could, like the darkness of Egypt, “be felt.”

It is not to be understood from the words of our Savior as recorded in Luke, that those who should observe the first of these signs would be of the generation that should witness His coming; but said He, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws nigh.”[11]

The third of these signs, the falling of the stars, was fulfilled on Nov. 13, 1833. On that night - or rather for five hours previous to day dawn - there was a meteoric shower, compared by some to streams of fire coming down from heaven; by others said to resemble sparks of fire flying from some great piece of fireworks. This phenomenon covered all North America, from the Gulf of Mexico on the south to Hudson’s Bay on the north, and from the Sandwich Islands on the west to within two hundred miles of Liverpool on the east. Where observed, it was the same continuous shower of stars, falling as thickly as snowflakes in a snow-storm. Testimonials concerning this wonderful display of “celestial fireworks” may be found in the publications already referred to.

In a book published by Leonard Heinrich Kelber, in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1835, it is stated that on Nov. 25, 1833, there was a fine display of falling stars on the continent of Europe. Mr. Kelber says that “in Minsterburg, Silesia, stars fell like a rain of fire. With them fell balls of fire, making the night so light that the people thought that the houses near them must be on fire.

“At the same time, in Prin, Austria, there was a falling of stars that covered a space of over five hundred square miles. It was described by some as like streams of fire coming down from heaven. Some called it a rain of fire. Horses were frightened by it, and fell to the ground. Many people were made sick through fear.”


Coming down in this line of prophecy past the fulfillment of the third sign, our Savior says: “Now learn a parable of the fig-tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh: so likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that it [margin, “He”] is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.”[12]

This language does not apply to the generation who were living when Christ gave this discourse, but to the generation who see these things fulfilled - not who see them fulfilling, but fulfilled. The things they see fulfilled as tokens that Christ is at the door, do not include the shaking of the heavens when He will be seen actually coming. These signs of His near coming include this third sign, the one in the stars.

As surely as we know that summer is coming when the leaves are putting forth, so surely we may know by the signs that are past that Christ’s coming is near, even at the door, and may know also that the generation witnessing the falling stars will not pass away until His actual coming shall take place. This statement Christ declares to be more certain than the continuance of the heavens and the earth. They will pass away, but His words respecting His coming in this generation shall not fail.

With these points clearly established, do not the events, with their fulfillment, designate the last generation? The last of these events - the falling of the stars - was fulfilled in 1833. Since that date we have entered upon the last generation, the generation that shall not pass away until Christ shall come.


The Lord’s appointed time for the people to learn the parable of the fig-tree dates this side of 1833. Here also is seen the accuracy of prophetic fulfillment in the great advent movement. The Lord, by this prophecy, marked the time when the proclamation of His second coming should be sounded to the world, and the parable was to be learned. Having reached this date, it is evident, too, that the time for the Lord to raise up teachers to teach the parable, has come; for “how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent?”[13] When the Lord has something for His people to learn, He will see that teachers are provided to teach that very thing. As His time had come for the parable to be learned, it was equally true that His time had come to raise up teachers.

Then this side of 1833 is the Lord’s time for the people to be taught that His coming is at the doors, and that His coming is before that generation shall pass away. Thus is marked out in this prophecy the time when the great advent proclamation should be given to the world.

We find that in fulfillment of this prediction, right there the Lord raised up His ministers in various parts of the world, who, from 1834 to 1844, sounded the cry of Christ’s coming near, “even at the doors;” and these taught the parable of the fig-tree, pointing to these signs of His coming, even as He had instructed. This message, either by the living teacher, or through the agency of the printed page, went to every missionary station in the world, and to every seaport on the earth.

The extent of the message has been plainly set forth by the editor of the Voice of Truth, of Rochester, N. Y., January, 1845: “The everlasting gospel, as described in Revelation 14:6,7, has been preached to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people; saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.’ No case can be more clearly substantiated with facts than that this message has been borne to every nation and tongue under heaven, within a few years past, in the preaching of the coming of Christ in 1843 [1843, Jewish time - our time, 1844], or near at hand. Through the medium of lectures and publications, the sound has gone into all the earth, and the words to the end of the world.”

Some people, unacquainted with the facts, have looked upon the Second Advent movement as limited to a certain locality, supposing it a work connected with William Miller and a few hundred ministers associated with him in the northern portion of the United States. To such it may be a surprise to learn that the movement in America, in which Elders Miller and Himes were prominent leaders, was but a small part of a great message that, as stated above, went “to the ends of the earth.”

The Lord’s time came for this proclamation to go forth to the world; and in a score or more different parts of the earth, at about the same time, men were raised up, who, without a knowledge of one another’s work, went forth to sound this message to all parts of the earth. Many of those mentioned in chapter three, who received the light on the close of the twenty-three hundred days, were afterward moved upon to engage in the proclamation of the first angel’s message of Revelation 14.

Such men as W. E. Davis, of South Carolina; Archibald Mason, of Scotland; Edward Irving, of England; Hentzepeter, of Holland; Laucunza, of Spain; Rau, of Bavaria; Kelber, of Germany; and Joseph Wolff, of Asia, did not receive their message from William Miller. In fact, but few of them had heard of William Miller until his work, like that in their own countries, had so spread as to rouse the public interest. Hentzepeter, of Holland, in a letter of 1843, said he never heard of William Miller until 1842. He had then been publishing books and preaching the doctrine of Christ’s second coming in Holland for about ten years.

There are individuals who have regarded this doctrine of the near advent of Christ as an American movement only, and under the leadership of William Miller. From some English writings it appears there were people in Great Britain who thought the movement was confined to Britain. An English writer said of the extent of this work: “It is not merely in Great Britain that the expectation of the near return of the Redeemer is entertained, and the voice of warning raised, but also in America, India, and on the continent of Europe. In America, about three hundred ministers of the Word are thus preaching this ‘gospel of the kingdom,’ while in this country about seven hundred of the Church of England are raising the same cry.”[14] Besides these of the Church of England, many of the non-conformist ministers were engaged in giving the same message.

At Newark, Ohio, August 8, 1894, Elder G. W. Mitchel stated to the writer that Elder Miller told him, at McConnelsville, Ohio, in September, 1844, that he had the names and addresses of three thousand ministers in various parts of the globe, who were proclaiming, “Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.”[15]

Of the extent of the proclamation, William Miller himself said that “one or two in every quarter of the globe have proclaimed the news; and all agree in the time. Wolff, of Asia; Irving, late of England; Mason, of Scotland; Davis, of South Carolina; and quite a number in this region, are, or have been, giving the cry.”[16]

In 1837, Elder Hutchinson was sent from England as a Wesleyan missionary to Canada. He finally settled in Montreal, where he embraced the advent doctrine. In the years 1843 and 1844, he published a paper called the Voice of Elijah, in which he earnestly promulgated the message of Christ’s advent near. He had a very extensive acquaintance in foreign countries. Having ready access to vessels sailing to those countries, and being privileged to send large parcels of his papers free, [17] he sent large quantities of them to all parts of the earth. The Adventists in the United States, Canada, and other parts, furnished him means with which to print; and he sent hundreds of thousands of his papers all over the sea, and to the ends of the earth. He said of his own work, that he had sent the papers freely to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Constantinople, Rome, and all over the British dominions.

When in South Australia, in 1908, I read in the Adelaide Register of November 23 the account of the death of Pastor Abbott, a veteran of ninety-five years. He had mentioned the advent movement of 1844 in some of his “reminiscences of the past.” Of the work in Adelaide he said, “In 1844 the preaching of Mr. Thomas Playford on the Second Advent made a deep impression upon me in common with many others.” Although they had a meeting-house that would hold five hundred persons, they had to take steps to construct a larger building. “There was no house in the place that would accommodate the people, when Mr. Playford would come to the place to speak.”

From what we have presented, it is apparent how accurately this prophecy concerning the advent message was fulfilled. God’s time came for the parable of the fig-tree to be taught, - for the first announcement of the first angel’s message [18] to be given; and He raised up His messengers to herald the cry to all nations, peoples, and tongues.

The history of the rise of this work has now been given; but as other messages “followed” (“went with,” as some translate) the first message, in following the movement to its present threefold cry, which is widely spreading, there are other features of the work to be examined.

2. Matthew 24:4-14
3. Matthew 24:14
4. Matthew 24:6
5. See "An Exposition of Matthew Twenty-four," and "The Coming King."
6. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
7. Matthew 24:29
8. Matthew 24:33
9. Mark 13:20,24
10. See "An Exposition of Matthew Twenty-four" and "The Coming King."
11. Luke 21:28
12. Matthew 24:32-35
13. Romans 10:14,15
14. Mourant Brock. Quoted in "Advent Tracts," Vol. II, page 135 (1844)
15. In "Rise and Progress of Seventh-day Adventists," it says 1,500. It should read "3,000."
16. "Miller's Lectures," page 238 (1843)
17. Captain Stanton, of Liverpool, in 1882 said to the writer, "Sailors are somewhat superstitious; they think carrying religious works for missionary purposes is a sort of insurance of a ship's safety."
18. Revelation 14:6,7

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