The Signs of the Times (38): Hell

editor - 10 March 2019

‘While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them…the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth’
Daniel 2:34-35 (NIV)

I recently visited the former Nazi concentration camp Mauthausen. A prisoner who survived Auschwitz and was transferred to Mauthausen called this camp the ‘pit of hell’. It was worse than Auschwitz because of the indescribable sadistic atrocities.

They would let sick prisoners freeze, starve or be killed with injections or poisonous gas. Mauthausen had a gas chamber in a basement room, not far from the camp brothel. In the same room were two incinerators – crematoria – in which the murdered prisoners were burned. Before the bodies of the prisoners were burned, they were stripped by a doctor of their valuable things like gold teeth.

Stairs of Death in Mauthausen. Photo: C4I.

The region around Mauthausen was chosen because of the presence of granite. There were stairs with 186 steps to the depth of the granite quarry. The prisoners had to carry 40 kilos of heavy stones on their backs up the 186 rough and uneven steps to the camp, while they themselves only weighed about 40 kilos.

Sometimes SS guards waited until all the steps were full of people and would suddenly kick the people all the way down the steps like dominoes. Many people would be killed, or crushed by the heavy stones. Or they were pushed over the edge of the ravine: ‘skydiving’ is what it was called. Those who survived got to jump a second time. Jews were forced to push each other over the edge of the ravine.


Floris Bakels, a Dutch prisoner of the Nazis, survived eight prisons and concentration camps. In the book ‘Nacht und Nebel’ he published his journal entries that he wrote and hid in all those camps. I went to those camps with him once, along with a camera crew. It was an experience that I will never forget. We put the documentary of his experiences on Dutch TV. It made a huge impression.

Two things stayed with me in particular. The roll calls – ‘Appell’ in German. And the stone quarry. Floris wrote about his personal experiences: “The prisoners like skeletons lined up for the roll calls for many hours, in the blazing sun or in the bitter cold. The rants and shouts of the guards. The public torture and executions. A living hell. And then suddenly I saw that small little (weed) plant between the rocks, with a small flower. And suddenly I was experiencing the greatness of creation and the Creator. In an overwhelming way. Everything faded and a deep peace remained. No one could take that away from me.”

“And then there was the crucifix. Nailed to a tree as was customary in Catholic parts of Germany and Austria. One morning I took off my hat when we passed this crucifix. As the first one of all the striped prisoners that marched from the camp to the ‘working place’. To salute this suffering Jew on His cross – marching in line on the way to the quarry. Out of respect. Within a few days the whole group did this, communists, atheists, Reformed Christians, Catholic Christians, all of them. The guards never said a word about it…”

Thinking about the horrible experiences with stones at the quarry suddenly this thought occurred to me: one day a rock, not cut out by human hands, will finally put an end to all evil. It will crush the final bragging empires of man to dust and pulverize them, so that the dust of it is carried away by the wind like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. And there will be no trace left of it. And the rock will become a huge mountain and will fill the whole earth, Daniel 2: 24-35.

The signs of the times become visible. And the greatest sign of hope is the restoration of the Jewish people to the Promised Land. Already for over a hundred years. Israel is coming home to the Promised Land. God is involved in a big restoration program. The land of Israel, the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, the city of the great King, they are all being restored. National restoration first. But it will be followed by spiritual restoration. The Kingdom is coming and the King of that Kingdom will come to make all things new forever.


The Signs of the Times
Many people are afraid of the future. Will the turmoil in the world lead to World War III? Or is there still hope? What do the ancient prophecies of the Bible teach us? Are we at the beginning of the end of this world? Or are we approaching a new beginning? Could Israel be a sign of hope? In this new series Rev. Willem Glashouwer looks at 52 of the many signs of the times that are mentioned in the Bible. The English edition of ‘The Signs of the Times’ is available in our webshop. Order today!

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