5Now concerning the signs: lo, the days are coming when those who inhabit the earth shall be seized with great terror,* and the way of truth shall be hidden, and the land shall be barren of faith.
2Unrighteousness shall be increased beyond what you yourself see, and beyond what you heard of formerly.
3And the land that you now see ruling shall be a trackless waste, and people shall see it desolate.
4But if the Most High grants that you live, you shall see it thrown into confusion after the third period;*
and the sun shall suddenly begin to shine at night,
and the moon during the day.
5 Blood shall drip from wood,
and the stone shall utter its voice;
the peoples shall be troubled,
and the stars shall fall.*
6And one shall reign whom those who inhabit the earth do not expect, and the birds shall fly away together; 7and the Dead Sea* shall cast up fish; and one whom the many do not know shall make his voice heard by night, and all shall hear his voice.* 8There shall be chaos also in many places, fire shall often break out, the wild animals shall roam beyond their haunts, and menstruous women shall bring forth monsters. 9Salt waters shall be found in the sweet, and all friends shall conquer one another; then shall reason hide itself, and wisdom shall withdraw into its chamber, 10and it shall be sought by many but shall not be found, and unrighteousness and unrestraint shall increase on earth. 11One country shall ask its neighbour, Has righteousness, or anyone who does right, passed through you? And it will answer, No. 12At that time people shall hope but not obtain; they shall labour, but their ways shall not prosper. 13These are the signs that I am permitted to tell you, and if you pray again, and weep as you do now, and fast for seven days, you shall hear yet greater things than these.
14 Then I woke up, and my body shuddered violently, and my soul was so troubled that it fainted. 15But the angel who had come and talked with me held me and strengthened me and set me on my feet.
16 Now on the second night Phaltiel, a chief of the people, came to me and said, Where have you been? And why is your face sad? 17Or do you not know that Israel has been entrusted to you in the land of their exile? 18Rise therefore and eat some bread, and do not forsake us, like a shepherd who leaves the flock in the power of savage wolves.
19 Then I said to him, Go away from me and do not come near me for seven days; then you may come to me.
He heard what I said and left me. 20So I fasted for seven days, mourning and weeping, as the angel Uriel had commanded me.
21 After seven days the thoughts of my heart were very grievous to me again. 22Then my soul recovered the spirit of understanding, and I began once more to speak words in the presence of the Most High. 23I said, O sovereign Lord, from every forest of the earth and from all its trees you have chosen one vine, 24and from all the lands of the world you have chosen for yourself one region,* and from all the flowers of the world you have chosen for yourself one lily, 25and from all the depths of the sea you have filled for yourself one river, and from all the cities that have been built you have consecrated Zion for yourself, 26and from all the birds that have been created you have named for yourself one dove, and from all the flocks that have been made you have provided for yourself one sheep, 27and from all the multitude of peoples you have taken for yourself one people; and to this people, whom you have loved, you have given the law that is approved by all. 28And now, O Lord, why have you handed the one over to the many, and dishonoured* the one root beyond the others, and scattered your only one among the many? 29And those who opposed your promises have trampled on those who believed your covenants. 30If you really hate your people, they should be punished at your own hands.
31 When I had spoken these words, the angel who had come to me on a previous night was sent to me. 32He said to me, Listen to me, and I will instruct you; pay attention to me, and I will tell you more.
33 Then I said, Speak, my lord. And he said to me, Are you greatly disturbed in mind over Israel? Or do you love him more than his Maker does?
34 I said, No, my lord, but because of my grief I have spoken; for every hour I suffer agonies of heart, while I strive to understand the way of the Most High and to search out some part of his judgement.
35 He said to me, You cannot. And I said, Why not, my lord? Why then was I born? Or why did not my mothers womb become my grave, so that I would not see the travail of Jacob and the exhaustion of the people of Israel?
36 He said to me, Count up for me those who have not yet come, and gather for me the scattered raindrops, and make the withered flowers bloom again for me; 37open for me the closed chambers, and bring out for me the winds shut up in them, or show me the picture of a voice; and then I will explain to you the travail that you ask to understand.*
38 I said, O sovereign Lord, who is able to know these things except him whose dwelling is not with mortals? 39As for me, I am without wisdom, and how can I speak concerning the things that you have asked me?
40 He said to me, Just as you cannot do one of the things that were mentioned, so you cannot discover my judgement, or the goal of the love that I have promised to my people.
41 I said, Yet, O Lord, you have charge of those who are alive at the end, but what will those do who lived before me, or we, ourselves, or those who come after us?
42 He said to me, I shall liken my judgement to a circle;* just as for those who are last there is no slowness, so for those who are first there is no haste.
43 Then I answered and said, Could you not have created at one time those who have been and those who are and those who will be, so that you might show your judgement the sooner?
44 He replied to me and said, The creation cannot move faster than the Creator, nor can the world hold at one time those who have been created in it.
45 I said, How have you said to your servant that you* will certainly give life at one time to your creation? If therefore all creatures will live at one time* and the creation will sustain them, it might even now be able to support all of them present at one time.
46 He said to me, Ask a womans womb, and say to it, If you bear ten* children, why one after another? Request it therefore to produce ten at one time.
47 I said, Of course it cannot, but only each in its own time.
48 He said to me, Even so I have given the womb of the earth to those who from time to time are sown in it. 49For as an infant does not bring forth, and a woman who has become old does not bring forth any longer, so I have made the same rule for the world that I created.
50 Then I inquired and said, Since you have now given me the opportunity, let me speak before you. Is our mother, of whom you have told me, still young? Or is she now approaching old age?
51 He replied to me, Ask a woman who bears children, and she will tell you. 52Say to her, Why are those whom you have borne recently not like those whom you bore before, but smaller in stature? 53And she herself will answer you, Those born in the strength of youth are different from those born during the time of old age, when the womb is failing. 54Therefore you also should consider that you and your contemporaries are smaller in stature than those who were before you, 55and those who come after you will be smaller than you, as born of a creation that already is ageing and passing the strength of youth.
56 I said, I implore you, O Lord, if I have found favour in your sight, show your servant through whom you will visit your creation.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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10 February 2011