1 “But these are the signs: The time will come when all people on earth will be in the grip of great confusion. The way of truth will be hidden, and no faith will be left in the land. 2 Wickedness will increase until it has become worse than you have ever known it to be. 3 The country that you now see ruling the world will lie in ruins, with no inhabitant or traveler there. 4 After that, if God Most High lets you live long enough, you will see that country in confusion. The sun will suddenly start shining at night, and the moon in the daytime. 5 Blood will drip from trees; stones will speak; nations will be in confusion; the movement of the stars will be changed. 6 A king unwanted by anyone will begin to rule, and the birds will fly away. 7 Fish will be washed up on the shores of the Dead Sea. The voice of one whom many do not know will be heard at night; everyone will hear it. 8 The earth will break open in many places and begin spouting out flames. Wild animals will leave the fields and forests. At their monthly periods women will bear monsters. 9 Fresh water will become salty. Friends everywhere will attack one another. Then understanding will disappear, and reason will go into hiding, 10 and they will not be found even though many may look for them. Everywhere on earth wickedness and violence will increase. 11 One country will ask a neighboring country if justice or anyone who does right has come that way, but the answer will always be ‘No.’ 12 At that time people will hope for much, but will get nothing; they will work hard, but will never succeed at anything. 13 These are the signs of the end that I am permitted to show you. But if you begin to pray again and continue to weep and fast for seven more days, you will hear even greater things.”
14 Then I woke up, and I was trembling violently. I was so disturbed that I was about to faint, 15 but the angel that had come to talk with me took hold of me, strengthened me, and set me on my feet.
16 The next night, Phaltiel, who was a leader of the people, came to me and asked, “Where have you been? And why do you look so sad? 17 Don't you know that the people of Israel in the land of their exile have been put in your care? 18 So get up and eat. Do not abandon us like a shepherd leaving his flock to the attacks of savage wolves.”
19 “Leave me alone,” I answered, “do not come near me for the next seven days. Then come back.” So he left.
Ezra's Prayer and Uriel's Answer
20 Then, crying and mourning, I fasted seven days, as the angel Uriel had commanded me to do. 21 At the end of the seven days, I was again deeply troubled, 22 but I recovered my ability to think, and again I began to speak with God Most High. 23 “Lord and Master,” I said, “from all the forests and plants on earth you have chosen this one vine. 24 From all the countries of the world, you have chosen this one small land. From all the flowers in the world, you have chosen this one lily. 25 From all the water in the deep oceans, you have filled up this one river. From all the cities that have ever been built, you have set apart this one city, Jerusalem, as your own. 26 From all the birds that were created, you chose this one dove. From all the animals that were made, you chose this one lamb. 27 From all the nations of the world, you chose this one nation to be your own, and you gave its people your Law, which is honored by people everywhere.
28 “And now, Lord, since all of this is true, why have you dishonored this one people more than all others by handing them over to many nations? Why have you scattered your own people, 29 who believed in your covenants? Why have you let them be trampled by people who rejected your promises? 30 If you are so angry with your own people, you yourself ought to punish them.”
31 When I had finished speaking, the angel who had come to me on a previous night was sent to me again. 32 He said, “Listen carefully to me, and I will teach you more.”
33 “Please go on, sir,” I said.
So he continued, “Are you worried about the people of Israel? Do you think you love them more than God, who made them?”
34 “No, sir,” I replied. “I spoke as I did because I was so confused and upset. I am always troubled whenever I try to think about the ways of God Most High or to understand even a small part of what he does.”
35 “You cannot understand!” he answered.
And I asked, “Why not, sir? In that case, why was I born? Why didn't I die before I was born? Then I wouldn't have seen the sufferings and troubles of the people of Israel.”
36 The angel said to me, “I will answer you if you can do the following things: Tell me how many people are yet to be born; collect scattered raindrops for me; make dead flowers bloom again; 37 open the rooms where the winds are locked up and make them blow for me; show me the picture of a sound. If you can do these things, I will answer your questions about the sufferings of the people of Israel.”
38 I answered, “Lord and master, no one can do these things, except God, who is not confined to this world. 39 How can I give you any kind of answer? What do I know?”
40 He continued, “You could not do even one of the things that I asked you to do. How can you expect to understand God's judgments or why God has promised his love to his people?”
Descending Generations
41 Then I said, “But, Lord God, your concern is with the people who will be alive at the end of the world. What will happen to those who live before that time? What about us? What about those who came before us, and those who will live after us?”
42 He answered me, “The final judgment can be compared to a circle, and just as a circle has no beginning or end, so those who come early will not be too early, and those who come late will not be too late.”
43 I replied, “But couldn't you have created all human beings, those of the past, the present, and the future, so that they would all live at the same time? In that way, you could have had your final judgment sooner.”
44 He answered, “The creation cannot move faster than the Creator. And besides, the world wouldn't have been able to hold all the people if everyone had been created at the same time.”
45 “Why, then,” I asked, “did you just now tell me that one day you would bring back to life at the same time every creature that ever lived? If the world can hold them all then, it can hold them now.”
46 He answered, “That would be like asking a woman who has given birth to ten children why she didn't have them all at once, instead of one at a time.”
47 “That would be impossible,” I answered. “She can't have them all at once.”
48 “In the same way,” he continued, “I have made the world like a womb so that it produces human beings at regular intervals. 49 The rule that neither a young child nor an old woman can give birth to a baby also applies to the world that I have created.”
50 Then I said, “Since you have brought up the subject, may I ask if the world you have been talking about is still young or is it approaching old age?”
51 He replied, “You can learn the answer from any woman who has given birth to several children. 52 Ask her why her younger children do not grow as tall as her older children. 53 She will tell you that those born while she was young and healthy are much stronger than those born when she was getting old and becoming weak. 54 You will notice that you are smaller than people of earlier generations; 55 those who come later will be smaller still. This shows you that creation is already getting old and losing the strength of her youth.”
God Will Bring the End of the World
56 “If you please, Lord,” I asked, “will you show me the one through whom you will bring judgment on your creation?”