Many people believe there is nothing that can be known about the timing  of the Lord’s return because Jesus said He would return like a “thief in  the night” (Matthew 24:42-44).

But Paul makes it clear in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 that Jesus’ statement  does not apply to believers: “But you, brethren, are not in darkness,  that the day should overtake you like a thief…” He then proceeds to  explain why: “for you are all sons of light and  sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not  sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” Paul is referring,  of course, to the light of the Holy Spirit who indwells all true  believers and who can enlighten us through our study  of Scripture to know the season of the Lord’s return (1 John 2:27).

God’s Attitude
As a matter of fact, God is obligated by His character to warn the world  of the imminent return of His Son. The reason is that Jesus is  returning in great wrath to “judge and wage war” (Revelation 19:11), and  God never pours out His wrath without warning.

God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should be brought  to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, God always warns before He  executes His wrath. He warned the world through Noah for 120 years. He  warned Sodom and Gomorrah through Abraham. He  sent Jonah to warn the pagan city of Nineveh, and He sent Nahum to the  same city 150 years later.

Likewise, God is warning the world today that His Son is about to  return. He is calling the world to repentance. The message of the hour  to unbelievers can be summed up in these words: “Flee from the wrath  that is to come by fleeing into the loving arms of  Jesus now.” Jesus came the first time as an expression of God’s love;  He came to die for the sins of Mankind. But when He returns, He will  come in vengeance to pour out the wrath of God on those who have  rejected God’s love and grace.

The soon return of Jesus also carries with it a message for believers.  Lukewarm Christians and carnal Christians are being called to commit  their lives to holiness: “The night is almost gone, and the day is at  hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness  and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day,  not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and  sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus  Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to  its lusts” (Romans 13:12-14).

God’s Method of Warning
God is alerting believers of the soon return of His Son through what are  called “signs of the times.” These are prophecies concerning world  events that we are told to watch for, prophecies that will identify the  season of the Lord’s return.

The Bible is full of these signs. There are about 500 prophecies in the  Old Testament that relate to the Second Coming of the Messiah. In the  New Testament, one out of every 25 verses is concerned with the return  of Jesus.

In fact, there are so many signs that it is difficult to grasp all of  them. The best way I have found to do this is to put them in categories:

1) The Signs of Nature — We are told to watch for earthquakes, famine,  pestilence, and signs in the heavens (see Matthew 24:7 and Luke 21:11).

This is the least respected category of signs for several reasons. For  one thing, many people simply shrug their shoulders and say, “There have  always been natural calamities, so what else is new?” Note that Jesus  says these signs will be like “birth pangs”  (Matthew 24:8) — that is, they will increase in frequency and intensity  as the time draws near for His return. In other words, there will be  more intense earthquakes and more frequent ones. That is exactly what is  happening today.

Another reason these signs are given little respect is because most  Christians are so rationalistic that they do not really believe in the  supernatural, and they therefore find it difficult to believe that God  speaks to the world through signs of nature. Yet,  the Bible teaches this principle from start to finish.

God dealt with the world’s sin through a great flood in the days of Noah  (Genesis 6). He called the nation of Judah to repentance through a  terrible locust invasion (Joel 1). In like manner, He called for the  nation of Israel to repent by sending drought, wind  storms, mildew, locusts, famine and pestilence (Amos 4:6-10). The  prophet Haggai pointed to a drought as evidence that God was calling the  people to get their priorities in order (Haggai 1:10-11).

The New Testament begins with a special light in the heavens marking the  birth of the Messiah (Matthew 2:2). On the day that Jesus was  crucified, there was three hours of darkness and an earthquake (Matthew  27:45-51). And when Jesus returns, the earth will  experience the greatest earthquake in its history as every mountain is  lowered, every valley is raised, and every island is moved (Revelation  16:17-21).

God has always spoken through signs of nature, and He continues to do so today. We had better pay close attention to them.

2) The Signs of Society — Jesus said that society will become  increasingly lawless and immoral as the time approaches for His return.  In fact, He said it would become as evil as it was in the days of Noah  (Matthew 24:12,37-39).

Paul paints a chilling picture of end time society in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.  He says it will be characterized by three loves — the love of self  (Humanism), the love of money (Materialism), and the love of pleasure  (Hedonism). He then points out that the payoff of  this carnal lifestyle will be what the philosophers call Nihilism —  that is, a society wallowing in despair. Men’s minds will become  depraved (Romans 1:28), and people will call evil good and good evil  (Isaiah 5:20).

We are seeing these prophecies fulfilled before our eyes today as we  watch our society reject its Christian heritage and descend into a  hellish pit of lawlessness, immorality, and despair. Even worse, we are  exporting our nihilism around the world through our  immoral and violent movies and television programs.

3) The Spiritual Signs — There are both positive and negative spiritual  signs that we are to watch for. The negative ones include the appearance  of false christs and their cults (Matthew 24:5,11,24), the apostasy of  the professing church (2 Thessalonians 2:3),  an outbreak of Satanism (1 Timothy 4:1), and the persecution of  faithful Christians (Matthew 24:9).

These negative spiritual signs began to appear in the mid-19th Century  when Christian cults started forming. First came the Mormons, then the  Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then a great variety of spiritualist groups  like the Church of Christ Scientists and the Unity  Church.

The apostasy of the mainline Christian denominations began in the 1920’s  when the German school of higher criticism invaded American seminaries  and undermined the authority of the Scriptures, teaching that the Bible  is Man’s search for God rather than God’s  revelation to Man.

During the 1960’s Satanism exploded on the American scene and has since  been exported worldwide through American movies, books, and television  programs. Dabbling in the occult has become commonplace in the form of  astrology, numerology, crystal gazing, transcendental  meditation, and channeling. The whole trend has consummated in the  appearance of the New Age Movement with its teaching that Man is God.

As society has secularized, true Christianity has come under increasing  attack. Judeo-Christian values, once the foundation of Western  Civilization, are now openly mocked, and those who still adhere to them  are castigated as “intolerant fundamentalists” by  the media.

The positive spiritual signs include the proclamation of the Gospel to  the whole world (Matthew 24:14), a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit  (Joel 2:28-32), and spiritual illumination to understand prophecies that  have been “sealed up” until the end times  (Daniel 12:4,9).

As with the negative signs, we are seeing these positive signs fulfilled  in our day and time. Through the use of modern technology, the Gospel  has been proclaimed throughout the world in this Century, and the Bible  has been translated into all major languages.

The great end time pouring out of the Holy Spirit that was prophesied by  the prophet Joel has also begun. Joel called it “the latter rain” (Joel  2:23), and he said it would occur after the Jews had returned to their  land. The state of Israel was re-established  in 1948. In 1949 God anointed two ministries that would have a  worldwide impact — the ministries of Billy Graham and Oral Roberts.  Then, in the 60’s, came the Charismatic Movement which prompted renewal  in worship and gave emphasis to the continuing validity  of the gifts of the Spirit.

The acceleration in the understanding of Bible prophecy began in 1970  with the publication of Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth.  It seemed to open up to popular understanding many prophecies that had  been “sealed up” until the end times (Daniel  12:4, 9). Remarkably, it became the number one best seller in the world  — with the sole exception of the Bible — for the next ten years!

4) The Signs of Technology — The book of Daniel says that there will be  an explosion of knowledge in the end times and that people will move  about quickly (Daniel 12:4). There are many Bible prophecies that cannot  be understood apart from modern technology.  For example, how can the whole world look upon two bodies lying in the  streets of Jerusalem (Revelation 11:8-9)? Modern television satellite  technology makes it easy. How can the False Prophet build an image of  the Anti-Christ that appears to be alive (Revelation  13:15)? The answer, of course, is the science of robotics. How can the  False Prophet require all people on earth to take the mark of the  Anti-Christ in order to buy and sell (Revelation 13:16-17)? It would not  be possible apart from computers and lasers.

Jesus said that the Tribulation will be so terrible that all life on  earth would cease to exist if He did not cut the period short (Matthew  24:21-22). How could all life be threatened prior to the advent of  nuclear weapons? Another reference to nuclear power  is likely contained in Luke’s statement that men in the end times will  “faint from fear” because “the powers of the heavens will be shaken”  (Luke 21:26). That certainly sounds like a reference to the splitting of  the atom.

5) The Signs of World Politics — The Bible prophesies that there will be  a certain pattern of world politics that will characterize the end time  geopolitical map.

The focus will be the re-established state of Israel (Zechariah 12:2-3).  It will be besieged by a menacing nation from the “remote parts of the  north,” the nation of “Rosh” — or modern day Russia (Ezekiel 38:2,6).  There will also be a threatening nation to  the East that will be capable of sending an army of 200 million —  namely, China (Revelation 9:13-16 and Revelation 16:12-13). A third  source of danger to Israel will be the Arab nations that immediately  surround it. They will covet the land and will try to  take it from the Jews (Ezekiel 35:10 and 36:2).

Another key player on the world political scene in the end times will be  a coalition of European nations that will form a confederation centered  in the area of the old Roman empire (Daniel 2:41-44, Daniel 7:7,23-24,  and Revelation 17:12-13). This confederation  will serve as the political base for the rise of the Anti-Christ and  the creation of his worldwide kingdom (Daniel 7:8).

Other international political signs include wars and rumors of wars  (Matthew 24:6), civil wars (Matthew 24:7), and general international  terrorism and lawlessness (Matthew 24:12).

6) The Signs of Israel — The signs related to the state of Israel are prolific and very important.

The most frequently repeated prophecy in the Old Testament is the  prediction that the Jewish people will be regathered from the “four  corners of the earth” in the end times (Isaiah 11:10-12). The Bible  states that a consequence of this regathering will be the  re-establishment of the state of Israel (Isaiah 66:7-8). The Scriptures  say that once the Jews are back in their land, the land itself will  experience a miracle of reclamation (Isaiah 35). The desert will bloom  and people will exclaim, “This desolate land  has become like the garden of Eden” (Ezekiel 36:35).

Another end time miracle will be the revival of the Hebrew language  (Zephaniah 3:9). Most people are not aware of the fact that when the  Jews were dispersed from their land in 70 A.D., they ceased to speak the  Hebrew language. The Jews who settled in Europe  developed a new language called Yiddish — a combination of German and  Hebrew. The Jews who migrated to the Mediterranean basin created a  language called Ladino — a combination of Hebrew and Spanish.

Other significant signs of Israel that we are told to watch for in the  end times include the re-occupation of Jerusalem (Luke 21:24), the  resurgence of Israeli military strength (Zechariah 12:6), and the  re-focusing of world politics on Israel (Zechariah 12:3).

All these signs have been fulfilled in this century. The nation has been  re-established, the land has been reclaimed, the ancient language has  been revived, the Jews are back in Jerusalem, and Israel is the focal  point of world politics.

Jesus says in Luke 21:28 that when these signs begin to happen, we  should “straighten up and lift up our heads” because “our redemption is  drawing near.”

The Key Signs
The most important signs are the ones that relate to Israel because God  uses the Jews throughout the Scriptures as His prophetic time clock. By  this I mean that very often when the Lord is revealing an important  event that will take place in the future, He  will point to the Jewish people and state that when a certain thing  happens to them, the important event will also occur.

A good example of this principle can be found in Daniel 9 in the famous  “Seventy Weeks of Years” prophecy. The prophet tells us to watch for a  decree to be issued that will authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He  then says that the Messiah will come sixty-nine  weeks of years (483 years) after that decree is issued to the Jewish  people.

There are two key prophecies which relate the return of Jesus to events  that have occurred in Jewish history since 1948. These two events  clearly established the period in which we are now living as the season  of the Lord’s return.

The State of Israel
The first is the re-establishment of the state of Israel which occurred  on May 14, 1948. Jesus singled out this event as the one that would  signal His soon return.

His prophecy is contained in the fig tree parable (Matthew 24:32-35)  which He presented in His Olivet Discourse. The day before He delivered  this speech, He had put a curse on a barren fig tree, causing it to  wither (Matthew 21:18-19). This was a symbolic prophecy  that God would soon pour out His wrath upon the Jewish people because  of their spiritual barrenness in rejecting His Son.

The next day Jesus reminded His disciples of the fig tree. He said to  watch for it to bloom again. In other words, He said watch for the  rebirth of Israel. He indicated that when the fig tree blooms again, He  would be at the gates of Heaven, ready to return  (Matthew 24:33).

Equally significant, He added an interesting observation: “Truly I say  to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take  place” (Matthew 24:34). What generation? The generation that sees the  fig tree blossom.

We are that generation. The fig tree has blossomed. Jesus is at the gates.

The City of Jerusalem
The second key event was prophesied by Jesus in the same speech, as  recorded by Luke: “[The Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword, and  will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled  under foot by the Gentiles until the times of  the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).

The first half of this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D., forty years  after Jesus spoke the words. In that year the Romans under Titus  conquered Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews among the nations. Jerusalem  remained under Gentile occupation for 1,897 years  — until June 7, 1967, when Israel won the city back during the Six Day  War.

The Jewish re-occupation of the city of Jerusalem is proof positive that  we are living in the season of the Lord’s return. Jesus said it would  mark the end of the Gentile Age.

A Call to Action
There is no way to escape the conclusion that we are living on borrowed  time. The signs of the times are upon us, and they are shouting for our  attention.

Are you ready? If Jesus were to return today, would He be your “Blessed  Hope” (Titus 2:11-14) or would He be your “Holy Terror” (Revelation  6:12-17)? If you have never received Him as your Lord and Savior, now is  the time to act. Repent of your sins, and call  upon the name of the Lord that you might be saved (Acts 2:14-39).

And if you are a Christian, are you living as if Jesus might return any  minute? Have you committed your life to holiness? Are you praying for  the lost and witnessing for the Lord when you have an opportunity?

Are you yearning for the Lord’s return? Can you say with Paul that you  are a candidate for a “crown of righteousness” because you have lived  your life “in the love of His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)?

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